More than a million D.C. area residents were startled by sonic booms created by the scrambling of military jets to ward off a private plane traversing into restricted air space.
Apparently, the private jet’s pilot fell unconscious, leaving the plane to fly on autopilot until it crashed near Montebello, Virginia, at about 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
John Rumpel, a prominent donor to the GOP politicians and initiatives, reported four of his family members perished in the Cessna Citation crash.
The Washington Post reported that victims include Rumpel’s daughter and a two-year-old granddaughter.
The U.K.’s Daily Mail reported that Rumpel’s daughter, Adina Azarian, 49, perished in the crash and that a second daughter previously died in a scuba diving accident when she was 19.
The Daily Beast reported the jet was owned by Encore Motors of Melbourne, Florida, a company owned by Rumpel and his wife.
Military officials scrambled six F-16 jets when the small plane veered into restricted airspace over Washington, D.C. The need to intercept the Cessna Citation quickly prompted military pilots to fly at near maximum speed, causing a sonic boom.
According to the Washington Post, the sonic boom “startled residents across the District, Maryland, and Virginia.
Military jet pilots unsuccessfully attempted to rouse the unresponsive Cessna pilot by deploying flares.
Few details are available regarding the crash, but federal officials note that the small craft “was not shot down.”
Rumpel told the Post: “We know nothing about the crash. We are talking to the FAA now.”
Rumpel, a pilot himself, told the Times that if the plane lost cabin pressure for some reason, “they all just would have gone to sleep and never woke up.”
Officials report the plane descended in a near nose dive, dropping 20,000 feet in less than a minute.
Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller reported that local authorities located the crash site, but there was no evidence of survivors.
The National Transportation Safety Board is leading an investigation.
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