Washington DC

No survivors in Va. plane crash after fighter jet response, sonic boom across DC area

NORAD F-16s set off a sonic boom while responding to an unresponsive Cessna jet that entered D.C.’s restricted airspace before crashing in Virginia

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Fighter jets caused a sonic boom heard and felt throughout the D.C. area Sunday afternoon after they were quickly mobilized from Joint Base Andrews to intercept a business jet that flew over the capital region, multiple government sources say.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) fighter jets were authorized to fly at supersonic speeds to respond to the Cessna Citation jet with an unresponsive pilot. The airspace in about a 30-mile radius of D.C. is restricted.

The sonic boom caused by the fighter jets startled people from Baltimore to Fredericksburg, Virginia, sparking a flood of phone calls to 911 centers in every metro-area county and to news organizations. D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMA) said there was no threat.

The Cessna jet crashed in rural southwest Virginia. First responders reached the crash site on foot about four hours after local and state authorities were notified. No survivors were found, officials said.

Four people were on board, officials told NBC News.

NBC News reported that the Cessna Citation belonged to John Rumpel from Melbourne, Florida. Rumpel said his daughter, granddaughter, nanny and their pilot were all on board. 

His wife wrote a post on social media mourning the loss.

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

Cessna Citation jet pilot was unresponsive to authorities before crash, officials say

At about 2:40 p.m. Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lost contact with the Cessna Citation jet, which had departed from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee, bound for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York, the sources told NBC News.

The plane turned around, began flying on a southwest path and did not respond to air traffic control, sources said.

D.C. officials were alerted at 3 p.m. that a plane was headed to restricted air space and informed that fighter jets would be scrambled, Chris Rodriguez, director of D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser did not hear the boom.

The jet flew at an altitude of 39,000 feet more than 450 mph directly over Northwest D.C. and through Virginia at about 3:30 p.m., according to FlightAware. A defense official told NBC News that NORAD F-16s scrambled, began shadowing the plane and saw the pilot onboard was incapacitated.

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A map depicting where the plane took off, its planned destination and where it crashed.

The FAA said the Cessna Citation later "crashed into mountainous terrain in a sparsely populated area of southwest Virginia" in Nelson County. The fighter jets did not cause the plane to go down, the defense official added.

"The pilot was unresponsive, and the Cessna subsequently crashed near the George Washington National Forest, Virginia," NORAD said in a statement. "NORAD attempted to establish contact with the pilot until the aircraft crashed."

Fighter jets caused a sonic boom heard and felt throughout the D.C. area after they were scrambled from Joint Base Andrews to intercept a Cessna jet that flew over the District on Sunday, multiple government sources say. News4's Mauricio Casillas reports.

Virginia State Police said first responders walked over difficult terrain to the crash site and arrived just before 8 p.m., but there were no survivors. Heavy fog also complicated the search.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating.

“Investigators will find out whether or not that was intended or perhaps they were experiencing some sort of mechanical malfunction with the pressurization system and that caused them to turn around and do a 180° turn,” NBC News Aviation Analyst Jeff Guzzetti said. “We just don't know. Hopefully the flight recorders will be intact.”

Chopper4 flew over the fiery scene in the George Washington National Forest. There was smoke rising from the crash site and charred, unrecognizable jet debris.

NBC News aviation analyst Jeff Guzzetti said the crash brings up a lot of questions.

“There’s a lot of circumstances about this particular accident that are very odd,” he said. “First of all, why the 180-degree turn?”

Sonic boom from military aircraft was heard and felt over D.C., Maryland and Virginia

About 3:09 p.m. Sunday, 911 centers began getting inundated by reports of a loud explosion. News4 also received multiple calls and emails from concerned viewers. The U.S. Capitol complex was briefly placed on elevated alert until the plane left the area, Capitol police said.

In one video, a couple in Fairfax, Virginia, were recording a song when they captured the boom. Their expressions turned to shock as they got up at the sound.

"We felt it in Rockville and it felt electric, like it was going through our whole body. We thought someone hit our car," Jamie Lee wrote on Twitter.

"The loud boom that was heard across the DMV area was caused by an authorized DOD flight. This flight caused a sonic boom," the City of Annapolis Office of Emergency Management said in a tweet.

D.C.'s homeland security agency said the department was “aware of reports from communities throughout the National Capital Region of a loud ‘boom’ this afternoon. There is no threat at this time.”

Other local law enforcement agencies reported receiving calls about the noise. D.C. Fire and EMS said they had no "ongoing incidents" due to the reports.

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