WASHINGTON (AFP): US officials said Monday there were no survivors from the Virginia crash of a small plane carrying four people, a day after the unresponsive aircraft prompted the scrambling of fighter jets from Washington.
The Cessna Citation slammed into mountainous terrain Sunday afternoon some 170 miles (275 kilometers) southwest of the capital, according to the Federal Aviation Administration which was investigating the incident.
F-16s earlier chased the aircraft at high speed — triggering a sonic boom across Washington and its suburbs, startling residents and rattling windows and walls for miles.
Virginia State Police said in a statement sent to AFP that first responders reached the site near the town of Staunton by foot some four hours after the crash.
“No survivors were located” and the search efforts were suspended, state police said.
President Joe Biden, who was at the White House and also played golf Sunday, was briefed on the incident, an official said without specifying whether any emergency precautions were implemented.
The civilian plane had taken off from Elizabethton, Tennessee bound for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York, the FAA said. But flight tracking website Flightradar24 indicated it turned around after flying over Long Island and headed back south over Washington and into Virginia.
“There were four people on board,” the FAA said in a statement. “The FAA and NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) will investigate,” and a preliminary accident report was expected later Monday, it added.
US authorities had yet to officially identify those on board, but comments by two relatives of people believed to have been on the plane provided some initial insight.
Public records showed the aircraft was registered to Florida-based company Encore Motors of Melbourne, whose owner John Rumpel told The Washington Post his “entire family” was onboard, including his daughter, a grandchild and her nanny.
In response to condolence messages on her Facebook page, Rumpel’s wife Barbara Rumpel wrote on the platform Sunday night: “My family is gone, my daughter and granddaughter.”
The North American Aerospace Defense Command said F-16 fighter jets “responded to an unresponsive Cessna 560 Citation V aircraft over Washington, DC, and northern Virginia.”
The command said it had attempted to make contact with the pilot, to no avail, until the plane crashed.