No survivors were found at the crash site of an unresponsive Cessna Citation light business jet that violated the airspace over Washington DC in the United States, before crashing into mountainous terrain near Montebello, Virginia.
Four passengers were onboard the plane when it flew directly over the US capital, technically one of the most heavily restricted airspaces in the nation. In response, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) deployed F-16 fighter jets to intercept the Cessna 560 Citation V aircraft. The US fighter jets caused a sonic boom over Washington DC, which could be heard across the capital.
It is not clear why the business jet did not respond to radio transmissions nor what caused the crash.
In a statement released on June 5, 2023, NORAD claimed it had “attempted to establish contact with the pilot until the aircraft crashed,” and even used flares “in attempt to draw attention from the pilot”.
The Cessna Citation jet took off from Elizabethtown, Tennessee, and was headed for Long Island’s MacArthur Airport. For unknown reasons, the plane turned around over Long Island and flew a straight path down over Washington DC. According to data from flight tracking website Flightradar24 the aircraft experienced a rapid, spiraling descent before it crashed. At one point, it was descending at a rate of more than 9,000 meters per minute.
According to federal aviation records, the plane was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne based in Florida. John Rumpel, who runs the company, told the Washington Post that his “entire family” including daughter, two-year-old granddaughter, her nanny, and the pilot were on board the plane, and had been returning to their home in East Hampton, Long Island after a visit to his house in North Carolina.
A rapid descent is extremely unusual for an aircraft of this type, suggesting that a catastrophic event is likely to have taken place on board.
Some reports have suggested that the operator of the Cessna might have passed out.