Family of GOP donors, NRA official among victims on plane chased by U.S. jets before deadly crash

Gun Rights

A major Republican donor and NRA executive said her daughter and her 2-year-old granddaughter were killed along with the girl’s nanny and the pilot of a private Cessna plane that crashed in Virginia and caused responding military jets to create a sonic boom over the Washington region.

“My family is gone, my daughter and granddaughter,” Barbara Rumpel of Melbourne, Florida, posted on Facebook.

Mrs. Rumpel has served on the executive committee of the National Rifle Association’s Women’s Leadership Forum and still serves on its Women’s Leadership Council, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Her husband, John Rumpel, who runs the Encore Motors of Melbourne, confirmed the crash to The New York Times. The plane was registered to the company.

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“It descended at 20,000 feet a minute, and nobody could survive a crash from that speed,” he said.

Mr. Rumpel also speculated that the plane may have lost pressurization, causing the pilot and the passengers to lose consciousness.

SEE ALSO: No survivors found in Virginia crash of plane that caused military jets to scramble

The Rumpels have made significant donations to Republican candidates in recent years. In 2020, they donated $250,000 to the Trump Victory PAC, according to the Daily Beast.

John Rumpel said his daughter, his 2-year-old granddaughter and her nanny were returning home to East Hampton, New York, after a four-day trip to his home in North Carolina.

The incident unfolded shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the Cessna Citation took off from Elizabethton, Tennessee, and was headed for Long Island’s MacArthur Airport.

Inexplicably, the plane turned around over New York’s Long Island and flew a straight path down over the D.C. area before it crashed over mountainous terrain near Montebello, Virginia, around 3:30 p.m.

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

Military jets from Joint Base Andrews scrambled to intercept the wayward plane as it approached the nation’s capital. The North American Aerospace Defense Command later said in a statement that an F-16 was authorized to travel at supersonic speeds, which caused a sonic boom that was heard in Washington and parts of Virginia and Maryland.

“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 NORAD 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.”

President Biden was playing golf with his brother at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland around the time the fighter jet took off.

Anthony Guglielmi, spokesperson for the U.S. Secret Service, said the incident had no impact on the president’s movements Sunday.

The Cessna aircraft then “crashed into mountainous terrain in a sparsely populated area of southwest Virginia,” according to the FAA.

The FAA and NTSB will investigate the crash.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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