Two dead after F-16, Cessna collide over South Carolina

An Air Force F-16 fighter jet and a Cessna collided Tuesday over South Carolina, killing two aboard the smaller plane and raining down plane parts and debris as the fighter pilot ejected to safety.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson confirmed Tuesday afternoon that two people were in the Cessna and both were killed. Their identities were not immediately released.

Maj. Morshe Araujo, a spokeswoman at Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon, told The Associated Press that the F-16 originated from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. Araujo said the pilot of the jet ejected safely.

Lt. Jenny Hyden at Shaw Air Force Base said the pilot was taken to the base for observation.

There also are reports that toxic flames were coming from the F-16, according to WCSC.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the fighter jet collided with the Cessna around 11 a.m., about 11 miles north of Charleston. A witness told WCSC that the crash occurred in a rice field close to the historic Lewisfield plantation home.

North Charleston Fire Department spokeswoman Bianca Bourbeau said the agency has sent a chief and a boat to assist Berkeley County with the crash, and will send other help as needed.

Berkeley County Airport manager Stacy Thomas declined to comment on the plane crash, referring questions to the FAA.

The Air Force has flown F-16s since the 1970s, though very few active-duty squadrons still fly them. Many F-16s still in service in the U.S. are assigned to Air National Guard units. However, Col. Cindi King of the South Carolina Air National Guard said the F-16 involved in the crash did not belong to the Guard.

F-16s from Shaw Air Force Base, about 35 miles east of Columbia, do routinely fly training missions over eastern South Carolina and the Atlantic.

Since 1975, the F-16 has been involved in 359 accidents that have caused more than $2 million in damage or resulted in a fatality or permanent total disability. The crashes have resulted in the deaths of 84 pilots. The plane's safety record has improved over the past decades, however. In the 1988 fiscal year, there were 23 of the most serious accidents. In the 2013 fiscal year, there were 7, and zero in the 2014 fiscal year, according to the most recent statistics.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.