World – Planes collide in mid-air
MONCKS CORNER — A collision between a small plane and an F-16 fighter jet that killed a father and son was the second fatal tragedy to strike their family in just four days, a relative told The Associated Press.
Authorities found the body of 68-year-old Michael Johnson, the passenger, in the Cooper River in a rural, sparsely populated area in South Carolina, Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury said. They are still searching the same area for the body of his son, 30-year-old Joseph Johnson, who was piloting the Cessna 150 when it was torn apart by its crash with the jet Tuesday.
On Saturday, Jim Johnson and his wife, Beverly — Michael Johnson’s brother and sister-in-law — were found dead at their home in Missouri, said Connie Stallworth, the men’s sister. The couple’s 16-year-old grandson has been charged with second-degree murder in their slayings, police said.
“It’s unbelievable. There just aren’t words to express it. I’m dumbfounded that it happened twice in a few days,” Stallworth said.
NTSB investigator Dennis Diaz told reporters today that his first goal is to document the two crash sites, which are about ten miles apart. He also said the F-16 pilot, who ejected safely, will be interviewed. However, that may not happen for several days.
Investigators will look at flight data recorders and interview witnesses, though that is expected to take months, Diaz said. He would not comment on the direction, speed or altitude at which either aircraft was traveling.
The jet’s pilot, Major Aaron Johnson from the 55th Fighter Squadron, was taken to Joint Base Charleston’s medical clinic for observation, officials from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter said in a news release.
The jet crashed into woods around the privately owned Lewisfield Plantation, an estate dating to 1750.
“We heard the plane crash,” said Leo Ramsey, who has worked at the plantation for about 30 years. “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.”
Ramsey and two other workers found burning metal, splintered trees and a flaming crater where the jet had crash-landed, he said.
Colonel Stephen Jost, commander of the 20th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, said Major Johnson was flying solo, practicing instrument approaches to a military base and was communicating with Charleston air traffic controllers.
Jost said he thought it was overcast at the time of the collision, but he was not aware of any weather-related problems.
It wasn’t clear if a flight plan had been filed, but Berkeley County officials say the civilian pilot had indicated he was traveling to Myrtle Beach.