A leading Republican donor whose family members were killed in a plane crash in Virginia on Sunday following a pursuit by US military jets lost another daughter in a scuba diving tragedy almost 30 years ago, it was reported on Monday.
John Rumpel, a Florida businessman and frequent contributor to Donald Trump’s political operation, said his daughter Adina Azarian, 49, and two-year-old granddaughter were among four victims of the crash that caused a security scare when the plane flew over restricted airspace in Washington DC.
Another daughter, Victoria, 19, was killed in a diving accident in 1994, the Daily Beast reported, and Rumpel and his wife, Barbara, an executive with the National Rifle Association, later named an assisted living facility in their home town of Melbourne, Florida, in her honor.
On Sunday, Rumpel, 75, millionaire owner of Florida’s Encore Motors franchise, said nobody could have survived the crash of the Cessna Citation twin-engine jet near Montebello, Virginia, on Sunday afternoon.
It is believed the pilot of the jet, who was also killed alongside the Rumpel family’s nanny, lost consciousness en route from Tennessee to Long Island, New York, causing it to stray into airspace over the capital.
The North American aerospace defense command (Norad) scrambled two F-16 fighter jets to intercept the Cessna, but they did not shoot it down, military officials said.
Sonic booms from the jets were heard in Virginia and Maryland as they raced to catch up with the light aircraft, sending some residents into a brief panic.
“They all just would have gone to sleep and never woke up,” Rumpel, who is also a pilot, told the New York Times in a brief emotional interview.
“It descended at 20,000ft a minute and nobody could survive a crash at that speed.
He said his family members were returning to their home in East Hampton, New York, after spending four days with Rumpel and his wife in North Carolina.
Joe Biden was playing golf with his brother near Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, at the time, and was briefed on the crash, the Washington Post reported.
The White House said the sonic boom was “faint” where the Bidens were golfing, and referred questions over security arrangements for the president to the Secret Service.
Records show that the Rumpels are regular donors to conservative political causes, including Trump’s failed 2020 campaign for re-election to the White House, and Ron DeSantis’s re-election as Florida governor last year.
The two Republicans are the leading candidates for their party’s presidential nomination for next year’s general election.
According to the flight-tracking website Flight Aware, the plane appeared to reach the New York area and made a nearly 180-degree turn, flying a straight path down over DC with the flight ending in Virginia.
The sonic boom caused consternation among many residents in the capital region, who took to Twitter to report hearing a loud noise that shook the ground and walls.
A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was expected to reach the crash site on Monday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the rules under which the plane was flying did not require it to have a type of data recorder known as a black box. Nonetheless, crews hoped the plane was equipped with a black box and were searching the wreckage site in hope of finding one. Generally, black boxes help investigators determine why plane crashes may have occurred.
The Associated Press contributed reporting