Officials: F-16, Small Plane Collide Over South Carolina

By: 
Susanne M. Schafer
Associated Press

An F-16 fighter jet and a small plane collided Tuesday over South Carolina, raining down plane parts and debris over marshes and rice fields.

The fighter pilot managed to eject to safety, officials said, though it was not known how many people were on the smaller plane or if anyone on board that craft survived. Debris was scattered across a wide area, though there were no reports of anyone being hurt or any homes being damaged on the ground, Berkeley County spokesman Michael Mule said.

There are homes in the area about 20 miles northwest of Charleston, though it is not densely populated, Mule said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the civilian plane was a Cessna 150.

Lt. Jenny Hyden, a spokeswoman for Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, said the pilot was taken to the base for observation. She did not disclose his condition. No one else was on board the single-seat jet.

A witness reported that the military plane broadsided the smaller Cessna, said Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury. He said debris was scattered over a wide area. Officials said during a news conference that most of the debris was in a marshy area, including a rice field.

"We have airboats and boats that are designed to run in the mud," Salisbury said.

Wayne Ware told The Post and Courier of Charleston he was going for a walk when he heard the crash happen. He did not see the initial impact, but heard it.

"I turned around, and I saw the jet. Pieces started falling out of the sky," Ware said, telling the paper the jet's engine landed at a campground.

The National Transportation Safety Board has opened a probe into the collision and is sending an investigator, said Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the board.

The Air Force has flown F-16s since the 1970s, though very few active-duty squadrons still fly them. F-16s from Shaw Air Force Base, about 35 miles east of Columbia, routinely fly training missions over eastern South Carolina and the Atlantic.

The smaller plane was a Cessna 150, according to the FAA, a two-seat plane that debuted in 1959 and remains one of the most common single-engine planes in the U.S.

The Cessna 150's maximum altitude is about 15,000 feet, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Most models weigh about 1,500 pounds when fully fueled. By comparison, an F-16 is about 50 feet long and weighs nearly 10 tons, not counting fuel or weapons.

Associated Press writer Jack Jones in Columbia contributed to this report.

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