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F-16 crashes into water near Key West, pilot ejects unhurt

An Air Force F-16 crashed into Florida Bay on Tuesday after touching another fighter plane in the same formation, an Air Force Reserve official said.

The downed pilot ejected unharmed and the other plane, which was carrying a civilian photographer, returned safely to Homestead Air Reserve Base, said Capt. Robin Grantham.

The F-16s were flying in a tight formation with two other planes when the collision occurred at 11:45 a.m. about 30 miles off Key West. The planes were returning to Homestead Air Reserve Base when the accident happened, the Air Force said. It was not clear what their mission was.

Grantham said the second aircraft "landed uneventfully" at Homestead, and that that plane appeared to have minimal damage.

The pilot of the plane that crashed was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter minutes after he ejected, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Jeff Hall.

The name of the photojournalist on the other plane wasn't immediately available, but Grantham said he worked for Air Force Today magazine, published in Australia, and had taken pictures of Air Force planes for several years.

"We routinely fly news media representatives," she said. "it's very, very rare to have any kind of accident, much less one like this," Grantham said.

Homestead spokesman Maj. Bobby D'Angelo said all the pilots on the mission, including the one who crashed, had logged a minimum of 1,000 hours flying fighter planes.

"There were no rookies on the mission," he said.

D'Angelo said it has been at least eight years since an F-16 crashed out of Homestead.

The Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard were searching for the wrecked plane, D'Angelo said.