- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report finds the pilot of an F-16C fighter jet from Shaw Air Force Base was warned by air traffic control of the presence of a small plane only seconds before a midair collision over rural South Carolina.

The July 7 collision claimed the lives of two men on the small plane. The jet pilot parachuted to safety.

The report says an air traffic controller told the fighter pilot at 18 seconds past 11 a.m. that day that a Cessna was about two miles away. The pilot responded that he was looking for the small plane.

About 36 seconds later, the controller lost the Cessna on radar. The fighter continued flying for about three minutes before the pilot ejected, the report said.

The Cessna’s pilot, 30-year-old Joe Johnson, and his father, 68-year-old Mike Johnson, both of Pinopolis, South Carolina, were killed in the crash. Their bodies were recovered from the waters of the Cooper River.

The accident happened in fair weather just after the single-engine Cessna, which was headed to Myrtle Beach, had taken off from the Berkeley County Airport near Moncks Corner.

The jet’s pilot, Air Force Maj. Aaron Johnson, no relation to the victims, was not injured. The plane, part of the 55th Fighter Squadron, had departed from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina, about 40 minutes before the crash.

The jet flew to the Myrtle Beach area where the pilot practiced two instrument approaches before heading southwest toward the Charleston Air Force Base to practice another such approach, the NTSB report said.

Instrument landings are used when the weather is bad and visual landings cannot be made.

The report released last Friday is a preliminary one on the crash and some of its findings are subject to change. The agency is continuing its investigation and will later issue a report on what was the likely cause of the accident.

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