Updated: Plane departing Elizabethton for NY crashed in rural Virginia, killing four
Published 2:51 pm Monday, June 5, 2023
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By Angela Cutrer
A weekend visit to family in North Carolina turned into tragedy Sunday when a Cessna Citation with four aboard left Elizabethton and ended up crashing in rural Virginia.
The plane had picked up its passengers in Elizabethton and then took off to destination Islip, N.Y. However, instead of landing at its destination, the plane made a loop and headed back southward, eventually crashing near Montebello, Va., around 3 p.m.
CNN reported that the civilian aircraft “missed its destination by more than 300 miles before plunging to the ground in Virginia … It was headed for New York’s Long Island MacArthur Airport…”
The Associated Press reported the plane was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc., a company run by John Rumpel. Rumpel told the New York Times that his daughter, granddaughter, the child’s nanny and the pilot were on the plane. The family members were said to be returning to East Hampton, N. Y., after a visit to Rumpel’s home in North Carolina.
Rumpel, who is also a pilot, told the Times that “[the plane] descended at 20,000 feet a minute, and nobody could survive a crash from that speed.” He added that he hoped those on board had not suffered. “[If the plane lost pressurization,] …they all just would have gone to sleep and never woke up.”
The Daily Mail newspaper reported that the Rumpel’s daughter was Adina Azarian, 49, whose LinkedIn profile lists her as a luxury real estate broker in East Hampton. Her 2-year-old daughter was named Aria.
The plane had refueled and picked up its passengers in Elizabethton before heading out toward New York. “It was here about 30 minutes, I’d say,” said Dan Cogan, Elizabethton Airport’s manager, when contacted Monday morning. “The plane was not based here – it was not a local plane. And we have no manifests for that kind of plane, so I can’t tell you anything about it or who was on it because I don’t know.”
Fox News reported that the Virginia State Police said search efforts began immediately by air and on foot with the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office and Augusta County Fire-Rescue after a notification at 3:50 p.m. reported a possible plane crash in the Staunton/Blue Ridge Parkway region.
Since the Cessna’s pilot did not respond to radio calls and was headed over a densely populated area that included Washington, D.C., two F-16 jets out of an Air National Guard base near Atlantic City, N.J., and two out of the DC National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base responded with permission to use supersonic speed. The resulting sonic boom alarmed local residents enough to alert authorities.
“My family is gone, my daughter and granddaughter,” Barbara Rumpel posted on Facebook after the crash.
John and Barbara Rumpel reportedly lost another child in 1994, when their daughter, Victoria, died in a scuba-diving accident. She was only 19.