A highly experienced Air Force pilot based in Sumter is alive but two people in a Cessna passenger aircraft from near Moncks Corner are presumed dead.
"It came down and hit this camper here, it bounced back, and it hit that camper," said crash witness Laura Parker.
Parker said she still has a hard time believing what she saw.
"A movie!" she said. "It was like a movie when you see two planes crash in midair and just explode, and then parts just start flying everywhere."
"Planes go under each other and across each other all the time, but these two just collided. They both exploded in a ball of fire," Parker said.
Air Force officials said around that time an F-16 from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter collided with a private plane, a Cessna C-150, near Moncks Corner.
Both on board the Cessna are presumed dead.
The Air Force pilot, who was flying alone to conduct instrument training, ejected and was taken to the hospital, where he's expected to be okay.
"It's obvious that while he was flying -- being in an F16 when this type of incident occurs you know the aircraft could still be flyable for a period of time," Col. Stephen Jost said. "It could happen pretty quick. The decision to eject is a quick one especially in a single seat flyer like an F-16. But it looks like in this case he made the appropriate decision based on the fly ability of his air craft and was able to safely eject and like I said we're able to cover his and get him the treatment and examination that he needs."
During an evening news conference, Air Force and Berkeley County officials said their objectives now are investigating the wreckage and recovering the bodies.
"We are very actively searching for those two individuals and a lot of agencies are involved," said Berkeley County Rescue Quad Chief Bill Salisbury. "We have side scan sonars in the water and the river. We have people in the race fields looking and a lot is going on right now to try to locate those people."
Just before sunset, DNR boats combed the nearby Cooper River. Divers were in the water too.
Nearby, neighbors looked on.
"Me – I'm not going to overcome this, because it's something I've never seen, and I know these people died in front of my eyes," Parker said. "I know they did, so I'm going to be devastated forever."
It's believed the two on board of the Cessna were flying from Berkeley County to Myrtle Beach.
The coroner said the collision happened just minutes after they took off.
Divers and search boats will be back out Wednesday morning.