I'm sorry to have to start the week out with tragedy, but here we are:
No survivors were found at the crash site of a plane whose pilot was unresponsive as it flew near the Washington, DC, area Sunday, prompting military fighter jets to attempt to intercept the aircraft before it ultimately crashed, authorities say.
First responders reached the site Sunday evening, about four hours after state and local authorities launched a ground and air search for the crashed aircraft, Virginia State Police said.
State police said they have suspended their search and will identify the plane's passengers when the information becomes available.
NORAD scrambled F-16 fighter jets from Joint Base Andrews Sunday afternoon just before 3:10 p.m. to protect DC airspace after the pilot changed direction and attempted to enter the no-fly zone around the nation's capital. The U.S. Capitol was briefly placed on alert during this time.
The launch of the jets created a sonic boom that was caught on camera by local residents.
The jets did not shoot down the plane, a Cessna 560 Citation V, but used radio and flares to attempt to communicate with the pilot after they intercepted at 3:20 p.m. The plane had taken off from Elizabethton, Tennessee and was destined for Long Island, New York before turning around and heading toward DC in a bizarre course change.
"The pilot was unresponsive and the Cessna subsequently crashed near the George Washington National Forest, Virginia," the release said. "NORAD attempted to establish contact with the pilot until the aircraft crashed."
The crash happened about a half-hour later at 3:50 p.m.
A two-year-old girl and her mother – the granddaughter and daughter of the owners – were among those presumed dead, along with the family's nanny. The plane belonged to John and Barbara Rumpel, both prominent conservatives in Florida. Barbara Rumpel is president and owner of Encore Motors of Melbourne and was recently elected to the NRA Board of Directors. She has served in leadership of the rifle association for several decades.
From The Washington Post:
Reached by phone, John Rumpel said he was the owner of Encore. Asked whether the plane that crashed was owned by Encore, he said: "To the best of my knowledge." Rumpel said his "entire family" was on board, including his daughter, a grandchild and her nanny. "We know nothing about the crash," he said. "We are talking to the FAA now. … I've got to keep the line clear."
The daughter's name was reportedly Adina Azarian and the granddaughter's name was Aria. Adina was known as the "Queen of Real Estate" in the Hamptons.
First responders reached the crash site in the George Washington National Forest before 8 p.m. on Sunday. Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for Virginia State Police, said no survivors were found.
The FAA said that the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the crash. We'll keep you updated on this story as more information about the events leading to the crash are found.