A mid-air collision between an F-16 fighter jet and a Cessna C-150 plane over South Carolina on Tuesday claimed the lives of two people aboard the civilian aircraft, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Authorities reportedly said that the military pilot safely ejected the plane.
The military pilot, who is “apparently uninjured,” was identified as Maj. Aaron Johnson from the 55th Fighter Squadron, according to a statement from the Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, where the F-16 was based. The identities of those killed have not been revealed as authorities are still searching for their bodies. The cause of the crash remains unclear and is reportedly under investigation.
"Our thoughts are with the friends and family of anyone aboard the civilian aircraft," Shaw Air Force Base said, in a statement posted on Twitter.
Maj. Johnson, who survived the collision by ejecting from his fighter, has been taken to JB Charleston's medical clinic for examination.
— Shaw Air Force Base (@20FighterWing) July 7, 2015
Johnson was reportedly flying a routine training mission from the air base to Charleston and back when the crash took place, Col. Stephen F. Jost said, at a news conference on Tuesday.
"Our pilots are well-trained to fly the approaches in and out of there, and all of the facts at this point indicate that the pilot was talking to air traffic control as they normally do when the accident occurred," Jost said, according to Reuters. "Everything beyond that is subject to speculation."
The crash occurred near Moncks Corner, north of Charleston, the Federal Aviation Administration said, in a statement. Plane parts and debris were reportedly scattered over a large area but there were no reports of injuries on the ground.
"We heard the plane crash. And then we took off from where I was at, I guess I was about a half-mile from it, when we saw a cloud of smoke," Leo Ramsey, who worked at the privately-owned Lewisfield Plantation where the fighter jet crashed said, according to the Associated Press (AP).