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.
US F-16 fighter jets caused a sonic boom across the Washington, DC, region Sunday as they scrambled to reach the unresponsive aircraft, officials said.
A US official said the F-16s did not shoot down the aircraft and that it is typical for the Federal Aviation Administration to call in jets if someone is flying unsafely.
The pilot of the civilian aircraft was unresponsive as the F-16 fighter jets attempted to make contact, according to a news release from the Continental US North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.
The F-16 jets were “authorized to travel at supersonic speeds,” which resulted in the sonic boom heard in the Washington, DC, area.
The F-16s used flares “in an attempt to draw attention from the pilot,” the release added.
The civilian aircraft, a Cessna 560 Citation V, was intercepted by the NORAD jets around 3:20 p.m. and ultimately crashed near the George Washington National Forest in Virginia.
“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.”
Four people were on board the aircraft, which overshot its planned destination by 315 miles before crashing, sources familiar with the investigation said.
Search efforts were still underway by state and local authorities Sunday evening, Virginia State Police told CNN.
State police were notified around 3:50 p.m. of a possible aircraft crash in the Staunton/Blue Ridge Parkway region, the agency said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter it was investigating the crash. The agency said it will arrive at the scene Monday and will begin “the process of documenting the scene and examining the aircraft.”
Private jet registered to Florida company
The private jet that crashed was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne, Inc., out of Florida, according to FAA records.
Barbara Rumpel is the president of the company. When reached by phone Sunday, her husband, John Rumpel, told CNN Barbara was safe and that they are owners of Encore. They did not want to comment further to CNN.
On her Facebook profile, Barbara commented on an unrelated post of others asking if she was on the plane and sending prayers, writing, “My family is gone, my daughter and granddaughter.”
John Rumpel told the Washington Post his family members, including his daughter, a grandchild and her nanny, were on board. He told The New York Times the family was returning home to East Hampton, New York, after a four-day trip to his home in North Carolina, and added his granddaughter is 2 years old.
The plane and those aboard have not been found.
Sonic boom heard across region
The military aircraft caused a sonic boom heard across the Washington, DC, metropolitan region.
“We are aware of reports from communities throughout the National Capital Region of a loud ‘boom’ this afternoon,” DC Homeland Security & Emergency Management said on Twitter.
There is no threat at this time, the agency added.
Earlier, the FAA said in a statement that a Cessna Citation crashed in southwest Virginia Sunday.
The aircraft took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and was bound for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York.
The aircraft crashed into a mountainous terrain in a “sparsely populated area”, according to FAA.
Capitol Hill briefly went on ‘elevated alert’
The US Capitol Complex was placed on “an elevated alert” when the small aircraft flew near the area on Sunday afternoon, according to a statement from US Capitol Police.
“This afternoon, our officials were working closely with our federal partners to monitor an unresponsive pilot who was flying an airplane near the National Capital Region. The U.S. Capitol Complex was briefly placed on an elevated alert until the airplane left the area,” the statement said.
The US Secret Service said they did not alter their posture for keeping President Joe Biden secure after the incident. Biden was golfing at the Andrews Air Force Base golf course near Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
The incident “had no impact on Secret Service,” spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said in a Sunday statement.
The President has been briefed on the incident, according to a White House official.
CNN’s Philip Wang, Raja Razek, Joe Sutton, Rashard Rose, Aaron Pellish, Amanda Jackson and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.