Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show 'An F-35B Fighter Jet Crashing Near Charleston, South Carolina'

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show 'An F-35B Fighter Jet Crashing Near Charleston, South Carolina' Wrong Location

Does a video on TikTok capture the moment of the F-35B crash in South Carolina on September 17, 2023? No, that's not true: the clip does not accurately portray the location. It was originally published by an account specializing in sharing "realistic" fragments from flight simulator video games. Its author confirmed to Lead Stories that the video was artificially generated.

The claim originated in a video (archived here) published on TikTok on September 20, 2023, under the caption:

BREAKING: A group of hikers capture on video an F-35B fighter jet crashing near Charleston, South Carolina

#f35 #f35crash #charleston #missing #f35b #southcarolina #usmc #marinecorps #relaxitdcs #dcs #dcsworld #msfs2020 #flightsim #airforce #warbirds #avgeek #military #aviation #aviationdaily #virtualreality #vr #shorts #reels #edit #clouds #cinematic

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-09-21 at 10.08.28 AM.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Sep 21 14:09:29 2023 UTC)

Lead Stories reached out to the account that posted the video. On September 22, 2023, the author of the TikTok channel replied with an email signed by "Joseph Sloan":

Video was created with Digital Combat Simulator, like every other video on that channel.

The one-minute video contained several inconsistencies contradicting the known information about the crash.

It portrayed the jet disappearing from the frame as it flew over a dark mountain. However, a few seconds later, a flame that looks like a bonfire appears somewhere at the foot of the same mountain on the same -- visible -- side the plane has just left as it appeared to drop behind the mountain.

Screen Shot 2023-09-21 at 11.03.55 AM.png

(Sources: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Sep 21 14:34:09 2023 UTC; TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Sep 21 14:34:28 2023 UTC; TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Sep 21 14:35:02 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)

The view of the terrain presented in the clip contradicts official statements, describing the crash site as a field:

Screen Shot 2023-09-21 at 12.32.33 PM.png

(Source: X screenshot taken on Thus Sep 21 16:32:33 2023 UTC)

Available footage of the crash site published by credible sources (for example, BBC) shows a flat bushy area without any significant elevations that would be comparable to the one in the clip on social media. Williamsburg County is in eastern South Carolina, near the Atlantic coast, and terrain in that part of the state is generally flat.

Rare eyewitness accounts further corroborate this. For example, as reported by NBC, Adrian and Stephen Truluck, who were present in Williamsburg County not far from the crash site, told journalists that the jet passed a sunflower field in its final moments, not a mountain.

As of this writing, there was no available verified footage of the moment of the crash.

When the flame appears in front of the black area on the screen in the video in question, no details -- such as debris -- are visible to confirm what it is and whether it is actually a crash site.

A close look at the several lines of hashtags in the caption shows that many of them indicate that the clip does not show what its title claims.

For example, the acronym DCS stands for Digital Combat Simulator, which is a flight simulator video game. So is MSFS, Microsoft Flight Simulator -- a series running from the early 1980s that included a 2020 virtual reality version. Moreover, two of the hashtags explicitly mention virtual reality.

The account that published the video on TikTok describes its content as "realistic," not real or authentic:

Screen Shot 2023-09-21 at 10.40.38 AM.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Sep 21 14:40:38 2023 UTC)

The F-35B fighter jet that took off for a routine exercise U.S. Marine Corps base in South Carolina crashed on September 17, 2023. The pilot was able to eject shortly before it. It took roughly a day to find the crash site.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about F-35 fighter jets can be found here.


  • 2023-09-22T18:08:04Z 2023-09-22T18:08:04Z
    Adds quote from creator of video.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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