WASHINGTON — A sonic boom heard in the Washington, D.C., area on Sunday was caused by F-16 fighter jets scrambling to investigate after a small plane entered restricted air space in the capital and later crashed in southwest Virginia, authorities said.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the crash of a small plane in “mountainous terrain” in southwest Virginia, the Staunton News Leader reported. In a statement, the FAA said that a Cessna 560 Citation V jet crashed near Montebello, Virginia, at around 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, The Washington Post reported.
The jets took off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to shadow the Cessna, according to the newspaper.
Family identifies crash victims
Update 8:57 p.m. EDT June 5: John Rumpel, the owner of the company that the Cessna 560 Citation V was registered to, told The Washington Post that his daughter, Adina Azarian, and his 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter, were on board the twin-engine aircraft.
“That’s the end of my family,” Rumpel told the newspaper. “It’s just my wife and I now.”
Rumpel identified the pilot as Jeff Hefner. Aviation records show that Hefner had an airline pilot rating that qualified him to fly Boeing 737 jets and had a top-level medical certificate, the Post reported.
Authorities have not officially released the name of the nanny, the pilot and the other two passengers.
Rumpel had said on Sunday that the passengers were returning home to East Hampton, New York, after a four-day visit to his North Carolina home, The New York Times reported.
4 confirmed dead in Virginia plane crash
Update 1:40 p.m. EDT June 5: Federal investigators confirmed Monday that four people died Sunday when a business jet crashed into a mountain in southwest Virginia, The Associated Press reported.
In a brief update, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration said the pilot and three passengers died in the crash. The Cessna Citation had taken off from Elizabethtown, Tennessee, and was bound for a New York airport. Data from flight-tracking site FlightAware showed the plane reached its destination in New Yorkbefore it circled back and flew over New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. It approached restricted airspace in the Washington D.C. area before crashing near Montebello, Virginia.
John Rumpel, who runs a Florida-based company that owns the aircraft, told The New York Times that his daughter, Adina Azarian, his 2-year-od granddaughter, her nanny and the pilot were killed in Sunday’s crash. With his voice breaking, he told the newspaper Sunday that he hoped that if the plane lost pressurization “they all just would have gone to sleep and never woke up.”
— Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
NTSB to begin investigating at crash site
Update 10:20 a.m. EDT June 5: Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will begin work Monday at the scene of Sunday’s crash in southwest Virginia, The Washington Post reported.
The Cessna Citation was bound for an airport in Long Island but circled back and flew southwest over New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland before approaching restricted air space in the D.C. area, according to data from FlightAware. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.
Officials with the NTSB said Sunday that the agency was investigating.
— Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
No survivors found, state police say
Update 10:43 p.m. EDT June 4: According to the Virginia State Police, no survivors have been found after a Cessna 560 Citation V plane crashed in the Staunton area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, WSET-TV reported.
Officials said that first responders were able to reach the crash site by foot, according to WSLS-TV. They reported that no survivors were located, the television station reported.
It has not been officially confirmed how many people were on board the aircraft.
‘Entire family’ reportedly on Cessna that crashed
Update 7:39 p.m., EDT June 4: Public aviation records said the plane that crashed was registered to Florida-based Encore Motors of Melbourne, The Washington Post reported. John Rumpel, who told the newspaper he was the owner of the company, said that “to the best of my knowledge,” the plane was owned by his company.
Rumpel added that his “entire family” was on board the aircraft, including his daughter, a grandchild and a nanny, the Post reported.
“We know nothing about the crash,” Rumpel told the newspaper. “We are talking to the FAA now. … I’ve got to keep the line clear.”
Pilot was ‘unresponsive,’ NORAD says
Update 7:03 p.m. EDT June 4: According to a news release from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the jets “were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds.”
The jets also used flares in an attempt to get the pilot’s attention, NORAD said.
The agency said that the aircraft was intercepted at about 3:20 p.m. EDT and that the pilot was “unresponsive.” The plane later crashed in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia.
Original report: According to the FAA, the aircraft took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee, the News Leader reported. The aircraft was headed to MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York, east of the New York City metropolitan area in Long Island. According to FlightAware, the aircraft circled back from the MacArthur Airport area and flew southwest over New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland before approaching restricted air space in the D.C. area.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command said that the pilot of the Cessna was unresponsive to attempts at communication. According to WRC-TV, the Cessna flew directly over northwestern Washington and into Virginia. A senior government official told NBC News that the fighter jets were shadowing the Cessna.
The pilot was reportedly incapacitated, according to the television station. The Cessna Citation is registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc., a company located in Melbourne, Florida, The Associated Press reported. A woman who identified herself as Barbara Rumpel, who is listed as the president of the company, told the news organization that she had no comment.
Authorities at the scene in Virginia said they are “95% sure” that they found the crash site, the News Leader reported.
‘’There are bright burn spots, smaller fires, but an active fire going on,” a helicopter pilot radioed to authorities, according to the newspaper. “We’re not able to see pieces of aircraft through the trees, but we’re thinking this is gonna be your spot. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and it’s gonna be tough getting in there.”
The sonic boom was related to an incident involving a Cessna that crashed in the Shenandoah Valley, according to the newspaper. The loud noise at about 3:10 p.m. EDT startled residents in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia as the F-16s took off, breaking the sound barrier.
“We are aware of reports from communities throughout the National Capital Region of a loud ‘boom’ this afternoon,” DC Homeland Security & Emergency Management tweeted.
According to the Virginia State Police, a search was being conducted in the Staunton area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, WSLS-TV reported.
Troopers were unable to fly in the area “due to fog and low clouds in the mountains,” the Virginia State Police said in a statement.
Rafael Olivieri, 62, told The New York Times that he was at his home in Annandale, Virginia, when he heard a “loud, very short sound” that shook his house. Olivieri said he ran outside and met up with several of his neighbors, who were also trying to figure out what happened.
“My first thing was looking to the sky,” Olivieri told the newspaper. “I was really worried.”
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