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Body from Cessna obliterated by F-16 in S.C. sought

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. - Federal investigators and local authorities have been combing through a wide swath of rural, sparsely populated land as they try to determine what caused an F-16 fighter jet to slam into a small plane over South Carolina, killing the plane's pilot and passenger.

Debris from the collision, which happened near Moncks Corner, was scattered over a broad area of rice fields and marsh about 20 miles northwest of Charleston. There were no reports of any residents hurt or homes damaged, Berkeley County spokesman Michael Mule said.

A coroner says a man and his adult son were on board the small plane.

Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury said Wednesday that authorities have recovered the body of 68-year-old Michael Johnson, the passenger. They are still searching for the body of his son, 30-year-old Joseph Johnson, who was piloting the plane.

Local resident Cliff Cannon told CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca he witnessed the explosion.

"I thought it was fireworks," Cannon said.

2 dead in crash between F-16, Cessna

The Cessna took off from nearby Berkeley County Airport just before 11 a.m., likely on it's way to Myrtle Beach. The F-16 was headed to Charleston from Shaw Air Force base near Sumter for a training exercise.

Investigators say at 11:02 a.m., the planes collided somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. The Air Force jet broadsided the smaller plane, completely destroying it.

The jet crashed into woods around the privately owned Lewisfield Plantation, an estate dating to 1750.

Beverly Brunswig told CBS News she and her husband watched helplessly as the jet approached their property.

"It came right over the top of us," Brunswig said. "It banked left and it was just seconds that we heard the second boom."

The Air Force identified the F-16 pilot as Major Aaron Johnson -- considered an experienced pilot with over 1,500 hours of flying. He ejected safely and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was evaluated. He suffered no injuries.

Now more than 20 agencies, local, state and federal are involved in the search and investigative efforts.

"We have side-scan sonars in the water and the river. We have people in the rice fields looking, and a lot is going on right now to try to locate those people," said Bill Salisbury, incident commander for Berkeley County.

An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board was joining the investigation and the NTSB planned to hold a news conference Wednesday to announce its initial findings, spokesman Peter Knudson said.

Johnson was flying solo, practicing instrument approaches to a military base and was communicating with Charleston air traffic controllers, military officials said.

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.