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Four dead in crash that led to sonic boom from F-16 fighter jets

A sonic boom was heard across the Washington DC area Sunday afternoon when military jets raced after a private, unresponsive plane that crossed into restricted airspace and later crashed, killing all four people onboard.

 

The deafening boom rang out when two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled from Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland to investigate the aircraft that was flying, but not responding to radio transmissions shortly after 3 p.m., according to the Department of Defense.

Residents around the capital and surrounding communities were left bewildered until more information later came out.

 

The F-16s were deployed after the private Cessna jet flew into restricted airspace over the capital before it violently crashed in southwest Virginia.

 

The fighter jets saw that the pilot of the plane had passed out, a US official told ABC News.

Rescuers were able to reach the site of the plane crash hours later by foot in a rural part of Shenandoah Valley where no survivors were found, according to police.

 

The aircraft departed Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee, heading for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

 

It had reached the New York area before making a nearly 180-degree turn and flying towards Virginia, according to the flight-tracking website Flight Aware.

It’s not clear why the plane was nonresponsive or why it crashed.

 

The jet dropped at a rapid rate, at one point falling more than 30,000 feet per minute before crashing.

The Cessna appeared to be flying on autopilot, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

 

The two F-16s were allowed to travel at supersonic speeds, causing the sonic boom that was heard across the region, the North American Aerospace Defense Command later said in a statement, according to the New York Times.

The owner of the company where the plane was registered told the Times Sunday his daughter, 2-year-old granddaughter and their nanny, as well as the pilot, were on the doomed plane on their way back to their East Hampton home.

 

John Rumpel, of Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc, said they were returning to New York after visiting him in North Carolina. He told the newspaper he didn’t have much information but suggested the plane may have lost pressurization.

The 75-year-old, who is a pilot himself, said he hoped his family didn’t suffer in the wreckage as his voice broke.

He added that if the plane lost pressurization, “they all just would have gone to sleep and never woke up,” according to the publication.

 

Rumpel’s wife Barbara Weimer Rumpel posted photos of their daughter and granddaughter on Facebook.

“My family is gone, my daughter and granddaughter,” she wrote.

Barbara Rumpel is known for her work advocating for gun rights and has been a member of the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Council since 2002 and an executive committee member of the council since 2012, according to LinkedIn.

 

The couple is also politically active and together have donated to numerous Republicans running for federal office in that past few years — including $250,000 to the Trump Victory PAC just in 2020, online records show.

 

The sonic boom, which occurs after a vehicle breaks the sound barrier at 767 mph, could be heard throughout the capital, and cities in Maryland and northern Virginia, with many taking to Twitter to question the explosion that rattled their homes.

 

“It was loud enough to shake my f—king coffee table” local Matt Cox tweeted following the boom. “Thank God there isn’t an infant in the house.”

Washington’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency said earlier in the day the boom was heard across the National Capital Region, but that “there is no threat at this time.”

Officials also made clear that the Cessna was not shot down by a military jet.

 

The crash is under investigation by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board With Post wires

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