Fighter jets were scrambled Sunday afternoon to investigate a private plane that was flying off course over the Washington, DC, area until the Cessna crashed in southwestern Virginia.
The noise created by the planes rocked the region on a warm Sunday afternoon.
Pilots from the Capital Guardians, a unit of the 113th Wing of the DC National Guard, determined the pilot was incapacitated, a senior government official said. Fighters followed the Cessna until it crashed, the official said.
The senior government official said the plane may have run out of fuel.
No survivors had been found as of Sunday night and the search has been called off. Authorities said four people were on board.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD, said F-16 fighter jets intercepted the plane and tried to contact the pilot repeatedly using flares until just before the crash near the George Washington National Forest.
“NORAD aircraft have been allowed to travel at supersonic speeds and residents of the region may have heard a sonic boom,” he said.
The sound was reported around 3 p.m. to local police and on social media throughout the District of Columbia-Northern Virginia-Maryland area, casually known as the DMV.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the Cessna Citation crashed in a sparsely populated area of southwestern Virginia around 3 p.m. Virginia State Police said in a statement late Sunday that no survivors were found.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the incident, a White House official said. A family source told NBC News that the Secret Service’s Airspace Division monitored the aircraft’s movements and there was no impact on Secret Service protégés.
Biden was golfing with his brother Jimmy at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on Sunday afternoon before heading back to the White House in a motorcade. At one point, reporters saw him driving a golf cart.
The plane was registered to a Melbourne, Florida-based corporation owned by John Rumpel, who said by phone Sunday that his daughter and granddaughter, along with their nanny and the plane’s pilot, were on board. At that time, he said that he was still waiting for news about his condition.
The plane took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee, bound for New York’s Long Island MacArthur Airport, the FAA said.
The aircraft may have overflew its destination at an altitude of 34,000 feet and then turned to the southwest, senior officials said. After ceasing radio contact, the FAA alerted an ongoing security conference call that includes the military and the Department of Homeland Security, an official said, prompting the call for the fighters to scramble.
Authorities later said the plane passed through the Washington, D.C., area after 3 p.m.
Washington police, Bowie, Maryland police and other police departments said they sent units into area neighborhoods in an unsuccessful search for the source of the sound.
Experts and investigators who examine incapacitated plane crashes often focus on cabin depressurization and hypoxia, or loss of oxygen, as culprits.
Hypoxia was cited as the cause of a 1999 Learjet accident in which professional golfer Payne Stewart died.
It was also seen in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 when it was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.
denis romero, Gemma Di Casimirro, Molly Roecker, Elizabeth Malina, valeriya antonshchuk and julie tsirkin contributed.