A Republican donor whose family was killed when a private jet crashed after flying through restricted Washington DC airspace had previously lost a daughter in a scuba diving accident 29 years earlier.
Businessman John Rumpel, 75, told The Washington Post that his daughter, grandchild and her nanny were onboard the Cessna Citation that crashed in Virginia on Sunday.
It was in fact Mr Rumpel’s adopted daughter Adina Azarian, 49, and her two-year-old daughter Aria who were killed in the accident, reported The Daily Mail.
Azarian, a real estate agent by trade, was adopted by the family at the age of 40 because she reminded them of their late biological daughter Victoria, who had passed away at the age of 19 in 1994, the couple told the newspaper.
The two women had “the same fire in their bellies, and they were loving, caring children,” they said.
After Victoria’s death, Mr Rumpel and his wife bought an 11-storey building in Melbourne, Florida, and turned it into Victoria Landing, an assisted-living facility named after their late daughter.
“Victoria Landing gets its name from Victoria Rumpel. Victoria was John’s daughter who died tragically at the young age of nineteen in a scuba diving accident,” its website states.
“John honors the memory of his daughter with the Victoria Landing name. With that honor comes the responsibility to make Victoria Landing the very best it can be… in commemoration of Victoria and in celebration of everything life can and should be. Life is simply too precious.”
When Sunday’s tragedy struck, the family had been returning home to East Hampton, New York, after a four-day trip to Mr Rumpel’s home in North Carolina, he told The New York Times.
“My family is gone, my daughter and granddaughter,” Barbara Rumpel, an NRA executive, wrote in a Facebook post.
The Cessna Citation’s lone pilot was seen slumped over in his seat before it crashed in a heavily-wooded area near Waynesboro, Virginia, a source told CNN.
The flight had been travelling from east Tennessee to Long Island, New York, at 34,000 feet when it became unresponsive and triggered an interception by military fighter jets protecting the US capital.
When the F-16 jets reached the plane at around 3.20pm ET they fired flares to try and get the pilot’s attention, according to a statement from the Continental US North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.
“The pilot was unresponsive and the Cessna subsequently crashed near the George Washington National Forest, Virginia,” the release said.
“NORAD attempted to establish contact with the pilot until the aircraft crashed.”
The jets were authorised by officials to “travel at supersonic speeds”, which led to a boom across the DC area.
The F-16s did not shoot down the plane, a US official told CNN.