U.S. News

Two South Carolina Air National Guard pilots survive mid-air crash

Pilots from the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing prepare to leave Lask Air Base, Poland June 22, 2015. South Carolina Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Two South Carolina Air National Guard fighter pilots ejected safely from their jets after they collided over eastern Georgia while performing routine night operations, the National Guard said on Wednesday.

The two F-16 fighter jets collided at about 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday over a military area in Jefferson County, Georgia, and then crashed, the South Carolina Air National Guard said on Facebook.

The pilots of each of the single-seat aircraft ejected safely after the mid-air collision, and there were no reports of injuries on the ground, the guard said.

The incident comes five days after a Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron pilot was killed when his F/A-18 crashed in Smyrna, Tennessee, and an Air Force Thunderbirds squadron pilot was unhurt when his F-16 jet crashed in Colorado.

The pilots in the latest crash have returned to South Carolina, local media reported, citing a guard official.

An initial recovery phase and investigation will start soon, South Carolina National Guard Brigadier General Van McCarty told reporters during a press conference.

Officials advised the public not to try to recover or touch debris at the wreckage site, which could contain hazardous materials, McCarty said.

He said the unit was training for an important mission.

“We’ll certainly re-engage in our training and prepare for that mission,” McCarty said.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Alison Williams and James Dalgleish