Sarasota, Fla. — An Air Force F-16 collided with a small plane Thursday and crashed in flames. One person aboard the small plane was killed, while the fighter pilot parachuted to safety onto a golf course and walked to someone's house to use the phone.
Pieces of the small plane, a Cessna, landed on the golf course. The wreckage of the fighter jet started a fire in the woods a few miles away.
A man aboard the Cessna was killed, said Henry Sheffield, a district fire chief.
"He's very, very shaken up, obviously," said Manatee County Sheriff spokesman Dave Bristow. "He's fine. He doesn't have any scratches."
Gerald Rivera was working on a construction site nearby. "We asked the pilot if he was OK and he said, 'Yeah,"' Rivera told the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
The Air Force said the jet was from Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., but was on a training mission that originated from Florida's MacDill Air Force Base, about 20 miles from the crash site. Sheriff Charles Wells said two F-16s were on the training mission but only one was involved in the crash.
David Buyher, who lives in a home on the golf course, said he and his wife were on their patio when they heard the F-16s fly overhead, making a loud "pop."
Moments later, they saw debris from the Cessna raining down on the golf course and around their home.
"We weren't sure what happened at first," Buyher said. "We thought it was the F-16 exploding, until we saw the pieces coming down."
Bob Morrow, a golf instructor at Rosedale Golf and Country Club, saw two military jets flying one behind the other while he was giving a lesson on the tee.
"They flew overhead. Then all of a sudden, boom," said Morrow. "It looked like the little plane came in from the side."