In a tragic private jet crash that left a somber imprint on the Washington region with a resounding sonic boom, experts now speculate a potentially alarming scenario.
According to public flight data, the pilot may have fallen unconscious in mid-air, likely due to a loss of cabin pressure, leaving the aircraft to the mercy of its autopilot until it ran out of fuel.
While the exact cause of the crash has not been confirmed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), this devastating probability adds a chilling aspect to the catastrophe.
On Sunday, the Cessna Citation, carrying a total of four souls, embarked on its fateful journey from a small airport in Tennessee, aiming for Long Island.
However, it deviated from its course after reaching New York, instead heading south and traversing the airspace above Washington D.C.
In response to this alarming development, six F-16 fighter jets were launched from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and two other sites, as divulged by the Pentagon.
This response from the military was of such urgency that the F-16s were given exceptional permission to fly at supersonic speeds over populated areas to intercept the Citation, causing a sonic boom that echoed across the region.
Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Devin Robinson emphasized the need for such urgency: “It important for the responding aircraft, in this case F-16s, to reach the situation as quickly as possible.”
Sadly, the jet couldn’t be reached, and all attempts to communicate proved futile.
The aircraft spiraled into its tragic destiny around 3:30 p.m. in rural Virginia, leaving no survivors, according to the Virginia State Police.
First responders were able to arrive at the incredibly remote crash site, with no cellphone service, about four and a half hours later.
As the investigation unfolds, a significant focus will be on the unconsciousness theory, which was postulated by former FAA and NTSB investigator Jeff Guzzetti.
His analysis of the flight data suggested the unsettling possibility that the pilot lost control of the aircraft long before its ill-fated turn in New York.
“Whatever happened, happened at altitude, which is a critical location to lose pressurization,” Guzzetti emphasized, underlining the urgency of the situation at such heights.
Adding to the urgency was the heartbreaking confirmation of who was on board.
The crashed jet, as per FAA records, was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne, a company based in Florida.
John Rumpel, the owner of Encore, confirmed the deeply personal loss: his family members were among the passengers, including his daughter, a grandchild, and their nanny.
This personal connection brings a poignant emphasis to the urgency and tragedy of the investigation, and indeed the event as a whole.
Despite the destruction of the wreckage, the NTSB is tasked with discerning what could have led to the potential depressurization and why the pilot might not have been able to use the onboard oxygen system.
The mystery surrounding this tragic incident, especially given the fact that the passengers were a family traveling together, adds a profound sense of gravity to the findings of the investigation.
The NTSB faces a challenging path ahead as it seeks to provide answers to this harrowing event.