- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The bodies of a father and son killed when their private plane collided with an Air Force F-16 fighter jet over South Carolina have been recovered and sent for autopsies, authorities said Thursday.

“The son, Joseph Johnson, was recovered in about 12 feet of water in the Cooper River” on Wednesday afternoon, Coroner Bill Salisbury in Berkeley County told the Associated Press. He said the remains of the man’s 68-year-old father, Michael, were found earlier that day in the same river.

Joseph Johnson, 30, was piloting the small plane Tuesday above Moncks Corner, a small town about 30 miles north of Charleston, when it collided with the jet, authorities have said. The two were on a day trip to Myrtle Beach.

F-16 pilot Maj. Aaron Johnson ejected safely after the collision and parachuted to the ground. He had been flying solo out of Shaw Air Force Base in central South Carolina on a training flight with no munitions aboard, Air Force officials said.

Johnson has returned to Shaw after being taken to Joint Base Charleston immediately after the crash, said Lt. Jenny Hyden, spokeswoman at Shaw. She added that the fighter pilot is not related to the victims.

Salisbury said autopsies on the two bodies were being conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He said he hoped to release the bodies to relatives later Thursday or Friday.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Authorities are at two aircraft crash sites, located about 10 miles apart, the coroner said by phone.

“There are still search teams in the area,” Salisbury added. “The divers are doing a grid search in the river. They have also recovered aircraft items: fiber glass, pieces of plastic, a seat from a plane.”

The F-16 crashed-landed in woods at the privately owned Lewisfield Plantation, an estate dating to 1750. Pieces of the Cessna were strewn over several thousand feet near the Cooper River outside of Moncks Corner.

Fighter planes from Shaw Air Force Base, about 35 miles east of Columbia, routinely fly training missions over eastern South Carolina and the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

The collision was the second fatal tragedy to strike one family in days, a relative told The Associated Press. On Saturday, Michael Johnson’s brother and sister-in-law were found dead at their home outside St. Joseph, Missouri. Police said the couple’s 16-year-old grandson has been charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of James Johnson and his wife Beverly.


Follow Susanne M. Schafer on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/susannemarieap

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