Officials confirmed that an unresponsive pilot flew through restricted airspace in Washington, D.C. before crashing in Virginia on Sunday, leaving 4 dead. The Cessna Citation private jet was followed by fighter jets authorized to fly at supersonic speed.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) dispatched 6 F-16 fighter jets immediately to intercept the plane, which set off a sonic boom heard and felt throughout the Washington, D.C. area as they attempted to intercept the Cessna. An unusual flight path caught the Federal Aviation Administration’s attention, and the pilot had stopped responding to air traffic control operators.
On Monday, federal authorities said that the crash occurred after the Cessna ran out of fuel; it was not taken down by fighter jets. The crash left behind “highly fragmented” wreckage in a mountainous area, and will take investigators days time to reach the remote crash scene about 2 to 3 miles north of Montebello in the mountainous terrain. They expect to be on the scene at least three to four days to gather, sort and inspect the wreckage, before moving it.
The FAA confirmed that the pilot and three passengers were killed and that the plane was “destroyed” in the crash. The Cessna Citation belonged to John Rumpel from Melbourne, Florida. Rumpel said his daughter, granddaughter, nanny and their pilot were all on board. Investigators are looking into when the pilot became unresponsive and why the aircraft flew the path that it did. A preliminary report will be released in 10 days, and a final report will be released in 12 to 24 months, authorities said.
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