Two occupants of a small civilian aircraft were killed Tuesday in a mid-air collision with a military fighter jet in South Carolina, officials said.
The pilot of the F-16 jet was able to safely eject into the water, where he was assisted by a rescue swimmer, officials added.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the jet collided with the Cessna C 150 aircraft around 11:03 a.m local time, roughly 11 miles north of Charleston.
The planes fell over the Lewisfield Plantation, off Highway 52, in rural Berkeley County, WLOX reported.
The cause of the crash had yet to be determined. But speaking at a news conference, Bill Salisbury, Berkeley County coroner and chief of the rescue squad, said the Cessna was hit in the side by the F-16, sending debris into the nearby water and forest.
The Associated Press reported a 68-year-old man and his adult son were the two passengers in the civilian pane. Salisbury said the body of one of the Cessna's occupants had been recovered as of Tuesday evening.
WCSC reported the pilot of the Cessna was 30-year-old Joe Johnson. and that authorities are searching for his body.
A spokesman for the Shaw Air Force base in nearby Sumter described the jet pilot, identified as Maj. Aaron Johnson, as "high experienced."
Col. Stephen F. Jost told reporters that Johnson "was on a single-ship mission from Shaw to Charleston to ... practice instrument approaches."
"He has been flying his entire career, I speculate around 1,500 hours," Jost said of Johnson.
Collisions between civilian and military aircraft are extremely rare, Jost said, noting the special training and procedures pilots get to avoid them. While the cause of the crash had yet to be determined, military officials are confident Johnson acted appropriately by ejecting himself from the aircraft, Jost said.
Will Seastrunk, the general manager at the nearby Berkeley Country Club, told BuzzFeed News that two golfers "saw two low flying aircrafts crash and fall into the plantation, then the smoke rising up."
The National Transportation Safety Board was at the scene and working to determine the cause of the crash.
In a statement Tuesday, base officials said their thoughts were "with the friends and family of anyone aboard the civilian aircraft" that collided with the F-16.
WCBD said these are photos from the scene:
Thumbnail image from WCBD
This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.
Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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