Search teams from the Virginia State Police, Augusta County Sheriff’s Office and Augusta County Fire-Rescue say there were no survivors from a Cessna that crashed in the Blue Ridge Mountains south of Stuarts Draft on Sunday afternoon.
The search teams needed more than four hours to reach the crash site of the Cessna, which briefly caused a national-security stir in restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon, finally reaching the site just before 8 p.m., about four and a half hours after the plane had gone down.
First responders had to navigate difficult terrain in the St. Mary’s Wildnerness, in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Nelson County-Augusta County-Rockbridge County line, by foot.
Recovery efforts were suspended late Sunday after the determination was made that there had been no survivors.
There were four people on the plane, registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc., which is based in Melbourne, Fla. Encore Motors owner John Rumpel told the Washington Post that his daughter, a grandchild and her nanny were on board.
Rumpel told the New York Times that they were returning home to East Hampton, N.Y., after a four-day visit to his home in North Carolina.
According to the flight app FlightRadar24, the Cessna, which departed from Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, Tenn., at 1:13 p.m., making it to its original destination, Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York, at 2:31 p.m., but instead of landing, the plane turned around and headed southwest.
Rumpel, who is also a pilot, speculated to the New York Times that the plane may have lost pressurization, which, if that was the case, “they all just would have gone to sleep and never woke up,” he said.
The plane made it to airspace over Washington, D.C., by 3:05 p.m., and as it flew into restricted airspace over the nation’s capital, the call was made to scramble two F-16 fighter jets from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to intercept the plane after attempts to contact the pilot were unsuccessful.
As the jets scrambled, people in Northern Virginia, D.C. and Maryland heard a loud, window-rattling boom around 3:10 p.m.
I heard it while attending the Washington Nationals-Philadelphia Phillies game, and noted to my wife, who also heard it, that it sounded like a bomb had hit nearby, which was of course concerning, considering where we were, a mile and a half from the U.S. Capitol, which was briefly placed on heightened alert due to the security concern.
The Washington Post reports that the jets intercepted the plane at 3:20 p.m., which according to the flight path from FlightRadar24 would have been when the Cessna was in airspace over the Crozet area in Albemarle County.
The plane crashed in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Nelson County-Augusta County-Rockbridge County line three minutes later, at 3:23 p.m., according to the FlightRadar24 data.
The Washington Post is reporting that its sources are saying the military jets did not shoot the plane down and that there is no indication the interaction with the jets caused the Cessna to crash.