A Florida businessman and prominent political donor identified himself as the owner of a Cessna passenger aircraft that sparked panic as it flew into restricted U.S. airspace over Washington, D.C., Sunday—before crashing into the Virginia wilderness, according to a report.
The aircraft, which authorities said was piloted by a person who lost consciousness, prompted an aerial chase with Pentagon jets, which caused a sonic boom heard across the D.C. area, officials said.
Virginia State Police tell The Daily Beast that they were not able to locate any survivors at the crash scene.
According to federal aviation records, the plane was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne, a Florida-based company owned by John and Barbara Rumpel, though neither were on board at the time of the crash.
In a brief interview with The Washington Post, John Rumpel confirmed he was the owner of Encore and said his “entire family” was on the plane at the time, including his daughter, a grandchild and her nanny.
“We know nothing about the crash,” he said. “We are talking to the FAA now… I’ve got to keep the line clear.”
When reached by The Daily Beast, Barbara Rumpel, who is listed as the president of Encore Motors in Melbourne, declined to comment.
Both Barbara and her husband, prominent business people in Florida, have donated to a medley of Republican candidates for federal office over the past few years, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to former President Donald Trump and his political organization, according to Federal Election Commission records viewed by The Daily Beast.
The couple donated a combined $250,000 to the Trump Victory PAC in 2020 alone. Then, just two years later, Barbara made a number of donations to controversial candidates, including $2,900 to Georgia Senate hopeful Herschel Walker and $500 to Florida congressional candidate Laura Loomer, a far-right influencer known for making anti-Muslim statements.
Barbara also has direct ties to the Trump Administration. She was listed as a co-chair for a firearm-rights campaign organization supporting the former president’s 2016 run, called the “Second Amendment Coalition for Trump-Pence.”
A longtime National Rifle Committee member, Barbara has been on the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Council since 2002 and spent more than six years as an executive committee member, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The couple committed their commercial real estate portfolio to a trust benefitting the organization, according to a statement they published on the NRA website.
“We want to leave a legacy that will help preserve this country as we know it and as it is meant to be,” Barbara wrote at the time.
The Sunday flight began when the aircraft, a Cessna Citation, took off on a flight from Tennessee to Long Island, New York, the FAA said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
The flight failed to attract attention until it entered into restricted airspace near the U.S. Capitol, prompting a rapid response from the Pentagon. At least one F-16 was scrambled and quickly went supersonic, causing the boom that shocked residents across the region.
“The civilian aircraft was intercepted at approximately 3:20 p.m.,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said shortly after the incident.
One of the Pentagon pilots saw the operator of the Cessna had “passed out,” a U.S. official told ABC News—a narrative which was later confirmed by both the U.S. Capitol Police and NORAD.
Shortly after being intercepted, the plane crashed in the Virginia wilderness.
It remains unclear what caused the pilot’s unconsciousness. Both the FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash.