April 19, 2005 (by Jon Sommerville) - Circa 17.00 hours on April 18, 2005 an F-16DJ crashed next to the Ashley River near Charleston, South Carolina. The two crew members ejected safely. Both the main power and backup power failed moments before the crash, the pilot said.
USAF F-16D block 50 #91-0469 from 78 FS taking off from Nellis AB for attending the Red Flag 01-03 session equipped with a loadout of AIM-9, AIM-120 and AGM-88 missiles.
The aircraft belonged to the 55th "Fighting Fifty Fifth" Fighter Squadron, which is part of the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw AFB
, South Carolina. The crew had just started their 90-minute training mission when the aircraft (#91-0469
) developed engine problems. After the pilot realised they couldn't make it to Charleston Air Force Base, he put the jet down in an unpopulated area.
Maj. Steve Granger and Lt. Col. Maurice Salcedo parachuted into the marsh in the Ashley River near The Citadel about 17.00h. Their jet slammed into the muddy ground about 10 seconds later and caught fire. The F-16 was carrying 20-millimeter shells, which likely burned in the fire after the crash, officials said.
Both airmen walked out of the marsh area but as a precaution, they were taken to the Trident Regional Hospital. A contractor will be hired to use a barge and crane to pull the jet from the marsh.
According to Col. Michael Beale, vice commander of the 20th Fighter Wing based at Shaw, Major Granger has flown for more than 12 years.
Although the F-16 itself belonged to the 55th FS
, the pilots are part of the 77th "Gamblers" Fighter Squadron. They are flying the jet to get used to the new systems that are heading to their squadron.
Charleston Air Force Base accident investigators planned to search the river and marsh for wreckage throughout the night.
A board of officers will investigate the crash.
The last crash involving a Shaw jet (#90-0815
) was in July 2001, when Capt. Mitchell Bulmann died after ejecting from his plane over the Atlantic Ocean off Charleston.
A report found the plane was moving too fast and was at an unsafe angle when Bulmann tried to eject.