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As it happenedended1686149226

Sonic boom in DC: Plane that crashed lost contact with air traffic control just after takeoff

Victims named as Adina Azarian, 49, her two-year-old daughter Aria, pilot Jeff Hefner, and nanny Evadnie Smith

Gustaf Kilander,Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 07 June 2023 15:47 BST
NTSB investigating deadly Va. plane crash

The pilot of the private Cessna Citation jet that caused a panic in Washington DC on Sunday when it passed into restricted airspace before crashing into a heavily-wooded area in Virginia was seen “slumped” in the cockpit prior to the accident.

Four people were killed in the disaster, including the adopted daughter and grandaughter of Florida businessman John Rumpel, 75, who had already lost a daughter in a scuba diving accident almost 30 years earlier.

Mr Rumpel, owner of Encore Motors of Melbourne and known as a prominent donor to conservative political causes aligned with Donald Trump, was quoted by The Washington Post as saying that his “entire family” had been on the plane when it crashed.

When the doomed flight, en route from Tennessee to MacArthur Airport in Long Island, New York, entered DC airpsace, a loud sonic boom was heard across the capital as two F-16s were scrambled to intercept the plane as it passed by sensitive sites including the White House and US Capitol.

First responders at the crash site said it had left a “crater” in rural Virginia.

Outside aviation experts speculated the pilot likely lost consciousness from a lack of oxygen inside the jet when it climbed above 10,000 feet, the altitude that typically requires cabin pressurization.

Only minutes into the doomed journey, the pilot stopped responding to air traffic control instructions prompting the alert to military, security and law enforcement agencies.


Barbara Rumpel: ‘My family is gone, my daughter and granddaughter’

Barbara Rumpel, the wife of the Florida businessman whose plane went down on Sunday, has confirmed the tragedy on Facebook, writing simply: “My family is gone, my daughter and granddaughter.”

According to The Daily Mail, the bereaved family are regular donors to conservative political causes, having supported Donald Trump in the past as well as Senate candidate Herschel Walker and far-right congressional candidate Laura Loomer.

Ms Rumpel was also a co-chair of the Second Amendment Coalition for Trump-Pence in 2016 and has been on the National Rifle Association’s Women’s Leadership Council since 2002 and its executive committee for at least six years.

Joe Sommerlad6 June 2023 06:00

Pilot of the private jet was ‘unresponsive’ even as F-16s used ‘flares’ to draw attention

Officials said that the pilot of the Cessna Citation private jet that flew into Washington DC’s airspace was “unresponsive” even as the F-16 jets — authorised to travel at supersonic speeds — used flares “in an attempt to draw attention from the pilot”.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that their jets did not shoot down the plane and that it is normal to call in jets if someone is flying unsafely.

The pilot of the civilian aircraft was unresponsive as the F-16 fighter jets attempted to make contact, Continental US North American Aerospace Defense Command Region said in a statement.

Earlier, a US official told ABC News that the pilot seemed to have “passed out”.

Joe Sommerlad6 June 2023 07:00

Expert suggests ‘hypoxia’ incapacitated private jet pilot

An aviation expert has suggested that hypoxia may have incapacitated the pilot of the Cessna Citation that led to the crash.

Steve Ganyard told ABC News that hypoxia “occurs when there is not enough oxygen in the cabin.” He believes the Sunday crash may be another example of hypoxia incapacitating those aboard the Cessna.

“The pressure should keep enough air in the cabin to stay alert and stay awake. In this case, it can happen insidiously where you lose consciousness, you begin to feel tingling, you get a sense of euphoria and it very slowly overcomes the people in the cabin,” Mr Ganyard said.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the pilot overshot the planned destination by 315 miles before crashing in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the Cessna crash, it was reported.

Joe Sommerlad6 June 2023 08:00

DC stunned, a mysterious plane crash and a family ‘gone’: The story behind the weekend sonic boom

A huge sonic boom was heard over Washington DC on Sunday afternoon, startling local residents and reportedly causing houses to shake.

The thunderous sound proved to be caused by two F-16 fighter jets, travelling at supersonic speed as they were scrambled into action from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to intercept a wayward Cessna 560 Citation V private jet.

The civilian aircraft had drifted over the capital’s restricted airspace without authorisation, passing such sensitive sites as the White House and US Capitol, with the pilot unresponsive.

President Joe Biden happened to be playing golf with his brother close to the very same air base and was briefed on the incident but not removed from the scene, according to a Secret Service spokesman.

DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management moved quickly to assure Washington residents that the boom did not indicate a terrorist incident and tweeted: “There is no threat at this time.”

Read more:

DC stunned, mysterious plane crash and family ‘gone’: Story behind weekend sonic boom

No survivors found after Cessna Citation plane wrecked in mountains following unauthorised flight over DC, causing a sonic boom to be heard when two F-16s were sent out to intercept it

Joe Sommerlad6 June 2023 09:00

Plane left ‘crater’ with few pieces of plane recognizable, first responders say

The plane that crashed near Raphine, Virginia left a “crater” at the crash site and likely struck the ground at a steep angle, four first responders have told CNN.

The anonymous emergency workers said there may have been about four pieces recognizable as being from the plane.

“There was nothing really bigger than your arm,” one of the responders told the network.

They also located signs of human remains.

Gustaf Kilander6 June 2023 10:00

‘The house rocked, the windows rattled ... We were obviously freaked out'

The F-16 fighter jets were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds, leading to a sonic boom above the US capital.

Chuck Martin felt the impact in Fairfax County, Virginia.

“The house rocked, the windows rattled, and it was done like that. We were obviously freaked out a little bit,” he told WJLA.

“I started calling the police. Their non-emergency line was busy forever. When I finally got through, they said, ‘Oh this DOD aircraft went supersonic, which sounded a little bit strange’,” he added.

Gustaf Kilander6 June 2023 11:00

Loss of oxygen in cabin may have led to Virginia plane crash, expert says

A loss of oxygen is a leading theory for why an unresponsive business jet flew over the nation’s capital Sunday before it crashed in rural Virginia. But federal investigators are just beginning to look for answers, and an expert cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

The Cessna Citation took off from Elizabethton, Tennessee, headed for Long Island‘s MacArthur Airport. Once over Long Island, it turned around and headed south, flying a straight path over Washington, D.C. before crashing in Virginia, killing the pilot and three passengers.

Read more:

Loss of oxygen in cabin may have led to Virginia plane crash, expert says

An aviation expert is citing a loss of oxygen as a possible theory for why an unresponsive business jet flew over the nation’s capital Sunday before crashing in rural Virginia

AP6 June 2023 12:00

What is Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is the condition that occurs when someone’s brain is deprived of adequate oxygen. If untreated, it can be fatal.

In aviation, hypoxia can happen if a non-pressurized plane flies above 10,000 feet without supplemental oxygen or if there is a rapid decompression during a flight, or a malfunction of the oxygen or pressurization systems, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Oxygen pressure decreases as altitude increases. It’s the reason planes are pressurized and why mountaineers carry supplemental oxygen on high-altitude climbs. It’s also the reason flight attendants explain to passengers how to use oxygen masks in the unlikely event that cabin pressure is lost during a commercial flight.

AP6 June 2023 13:00

The effects of Hypoxia

“It’s something that happens slowly. It’s almost like you’re getting groggy, and you just can’t, you can’t piece things together. And eventually, you lose consciousness,” said Anthony Brickhouse, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board who is now an associate professor and director of the Aerospace Forensic Lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Brickhouse said that aircraft are often set to fly on autopilot “so if the pilot goes hypoxic or loses consciousness, that aircraft is just going to fly whatever route it was programmed to fly,” he said.

Brickhouse said it’s unclear why the plane suddenly turned around in New York and headed south again. He said it’s possible the pilot was disoriented and may have “tried to reprogram a flight computer or something like that.”

“That’s definitely something that investigators will be looking into,” Brickhouse said.

Brickhouse said it’s important not to jump to conclusions about what caused the sudden flight turnaround and the crash.

AP6 June 2023 14:00

The heartbreaking reason Trump donor couple adopted daughter who died in Virginia plane crash aged 40

A Republican donor whose family was killed when a private jet crashed after flying through restricted Washington DC airspace had previously lost a daughter in a scuba diving accident 29 years earlier.

Businessman John Rumpel, 75, told The Washington Post that his daughter, grandchild and her nanny were onboard the Cessna Citation that crashed in Virginia on Sunday.

It was in fact Mr Rumpel’s adopted daughter Adina Azarian, 49, and her two-year-old daughter Aria who were killed in the accident, reported The Daily Mail.

Azarian, a real estate agent by trade, was adopted by the family at the age of 40 because she reminded them of their late biological daughter Victoria, who had passed away at the age of 19 in 1994, the couple told the newspaper.

The two women had “the same fire in their bellies, and they were loving, caring children,” they said.

Read more:

Real estate agent killed in Virginia plane crash was adopted at 40

Businessman John Rumpel says his daughter, grandchild and nanny were on board the Cessna Citation that crashed in Virginia

Graeme Massie6 June 2023 14:30

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