WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – A man who lives in a rural portion of Williamsburg County said he heard what we now know was the crash of an unmanned military jet – but at the time, he had no idea it was a downed aircraft not far from his home.
Randolph White, 72, retired from his job at the paper mill in Georgetown 10 years ago; he and his wife live in a very rural area of Williamsburg County.
“It’s nice and quiet and peaceful. And I don’t have to worry about people close up tight you know, I like space,” he said.
While he said it’s typically quiet where he lives, Sunday afternoon was anything but.
“I was in the bathroom, taking a shave, and I heard a screeching. Between a screech and a whistle. I said, what in the world is this? And I heard a boom! Then my whole house shook,” he recalled.
White said he did not realize it was a plane at the time, so he did not call anyone.
“The first thought that came to me… I said well, did a meteorite come from outer space or something? And I said, well if it was an airplane it needs to be reported because that thing was flying just too low. I didn’t give it any other thought. I knew it was low because my house is pretty solid, and it shook,” White said.
White went on to say that he then saw helicopters flying around on Monday evening while he was out walking. “Somebody must have robbed a bank,” he thought. “Killed some people or whatever. So, I walked up there, and they told me it was about the plane.”
The F-35B airplane wreckage created an extensive debris field off Old Georgetown Road. Military security there is tight, with numerous red and white signs on the side of the road that read “No Trespassing. This area has been designated a National Defense Area.”
“Just through the grace of God, nobody didn’t get hurt,” said White. “Because there’s a church right up there, about a half mile.”
About a mile stretch of Old Georgetown Road will be closed for a period while crews recover the wreckage.
“Anything man-made can malfunction. You know, so you try to give them the benefit of the doubt. But it needs to be investigated and the public needs to know what really happened. You know, it shouldn’t be kept a secret what happened. Because, you know, it could’ve been a major disaster,” said White.
The pilot, who has not been identified, was found on South Kenwood Drive in North Charleston after safely ejecting from the aircraft on Sunday afternoon and taken to a local hospital for treatment.
There is no clear reason for the incident; officials with Joint Base Charleston are calling it a “mishap.”