Multiple F-16 fighter jets were scrambled on Sunday afternoon in reaction to a small private jet that violated restricted airspace around Washington D.C. and did not respond to numerous radio calls prior to crashing in a rural and thickly wooded part of Virginia.
Lost in that tragic accident were the pilot and three passengers, including New York City realtor Adina Azarian, 49, the adopted daughter of prominent Trump donors and gun rights supporters, as well as Azarian's two-year-old daughter Aria and their nanny, the Conservative Brief reported.
Though a federal investigation is ongoing, it is suspected that the Cessna Citation lost cabin pressure at some point during a flight from East Tennessee to New York's Long Island, causing everyone on board to fall unconscious while the plane continued to fly on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and eventually nose-dived into the ground at high speed.
The New York Post reported that the Cessna Citation that crashed in rural Virginia on Sunday after prompting the scrambling of F-16 fighter jets -- which caused a sonic boom that rattled the D.C. area as they flew at supersonic speeds to intercept the private jet -- was registered to a company owned by wealthy Florida-based businessman John Rumpel.
Rumpel, who said the plane was taking Azarian and her daughter back to NYC after a visit to his North Carolina vacation home, has been a prominent donor to Republicans over the years, including a $250,000 contribution to former President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election effort.
His wife, Barbara Rumpel, is also quite active in GOP politics and is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment who has served for two decades as a top executive with the National Rifle Association's Women's Leadership Council.
Azarian was not particularly involved in politics but rather was focused on her career as a top real estate agent for the Keller Williams firm in NYC, which posted a message of condolences to social media following the death of her and her young daughter in Sunday's tragic plane crash.
According to The Washington Post, John and Barbara Rumpel became close friends with Azarian and actually adopted her as their own daughter nearly a decade ago when she was 40, in large part because she reminded them of their own late daughter Victoria, who had perished decades earlier at the age of 19 during a tragic scuba diving accident.
Of both his biological and adopted daughters, Rumpel told the outlet, "They had the same fire in their bellies, and they were loving, caring children," and added, "We had no one else, and we loved her."
As for the crash that killed his adopted daughter and granddaughter, the 75-year-old businessman said, "That’s the end of my family. It’s just my wife and I now."
According to CNN, based on information from the Federal Aviation Administration and flight-tracking website FlightAware, the Cessna Citation registered to Rumpel's business took off from Elizabethton, Tennessee on Sunday afternoon but flew past its destination in Long Island, New York before suddenly making a near 180-degree turn to head back to its point of origin on a new flight path that crossed through restricted airspace around the nation's capitol before running out of fuel and crashing into the wilderness of rural Virginia.
The National Transporation Safety Board is leading an investigation of the incident and reportedly searched through the plane's scattered wreckage in hopes of finding evidence that would shed light on exactly what happened, particularly in the form of so-called "black boxes" -- the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder -- that are recommended but not required on the small private jet.
Though the investigation remains ongoing, the preliminary theory is that the aircraft suffered a loss in cabin pressure that resulted in hypoxia -- a lack of oxygen to the brain -- that resulted in everyone on board passing out while the plane continued to fly on autopilot, likely making the U-turn to return to Tennessee after there were no further inputs from the pilot upon reaching the destination in New York.
That is similar to the prevailing theory for what caused the terrible plane crash in 1999 that killed professional golfer Payne Stewart and five others who were on their way from Florida to Texas but ultimately crashed in South Dakota after the Lear jet flew off course and came down after running out of fuel.