The sign for Joint Base Andrews in Maryland in 2021,...

The sign for Joint Base Andrews in Maryland in 2021, near Washington, D.C. Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

WASHINGTON — A wayward and unresponsive business plane that flew over the nation's capital Sunday afternoon caused the military to scramble two fighter jets before the plane crashed in Virginia, officials said. The fighter jets caused a sonic boom that was heard across the capital region.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the Cessna Citation took off from Elizabethtown, Tennessee, on Sunday and was headed for Long Island MacArthur Airport. Inexplicably, the plane turned around over Long Island and flew a straight path down over Washington, D.C. before it crashed over mountainous terrain near Montebello, Virginia, around 3:30 p.m.

First responders reached the crash site by foot shortly before 8 p.m. on Sunday, said Corinne Geller, a spokesperson for the Virginia State Police. No survivors were found.

The search included efforts from the Virginia State Police, Augusta County Sheriff’s Office and Augusta County Fire-Rescue by ground and air.

Geller said the state police will identify aircraft occupants “once that information becomes available.”

The plane that crashed was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc. A woman who identified herself as Barbara Rumpel, who is listed as the president of Encore Motors of Melbourne, said she had no comment Sunday when reached by a reporter for the AP.

John Rumpel, the plane's owner, said in an interview with Newsday that the family doesn’t have any knowledge of what led to the crash but said “they haven’t reached the wreckage.”

His daughter, granddaughter, a live-in nanny and the pilot were on board, he said. They were traveling to their home in East Hampton.

He said his granddaughter is “the only one I have, and the only daughter I have.” He said his daughter is almost 50 and the granddaughter is 2½.

They were on vacation visiting relatives  in North Carolina and were returning to Long Island.

Rumpel asked that the media give his family privacy.

Caroline Smith, a Town of Islip spokesperson, who is also a spokesperson for MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, referred all comment Sunday to the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

The FAA said it would post a preliminary accident report within a day.

A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board, Jennifer Gabris, said Sunday night that investigators from the agency are expected to arrive on scene on Monday.

The crashed plane had been unresponsive to Air Traffic Control communications and overflew its intended destination at MacArthur Airport, Gabris said in an email.

After reaching the crash, investigators will document the scene and examine the aircraft, she said, as well as request radar data, weather information and maintenance records.

Investigators “will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation,” she said.

A preliminary report is expected in three weeks and a full investigation takes between a year and two years to complete, Gabris said.

Flight tracking sites showed the small plane suffered a rapid spiraling descent, dropping at one point at a rate of more than 30,000 feet per minute before crashing in St. Mary’s Wilderness.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command later said in a statement that the F-16 was authorized to travel at supersonic speeds, which caused a sonic boom.

“During this event, the NORAD aircraft also used flares — which may have been visible to the public — in an attempt to draw attention from the pilot,” the statement said. “Flares are employed with highest regard for safety of the intercepted aircraft and people on the ground. Flares burn out quickly and completely and there is no danger to the people on the ground when dispensed.”

According to a release from NORAD, the aircraft was intercepted around 3:20 p.m. and crashed near the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. NORAD attempted to make contact with the pilot until the crash.

A spokesperson for the D.C. Air National Guard referred inquiries to the NORAD release and said no other information is currently available.

With Brianne Ledda

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