WASHINGTON — If you heard a loud boom in the D.C. area on Sunday afternoon and wondered what it was, officials are calling it a "sonic boom" caused by military planes traveling at high speeds to intercept an unresponsive plane that ended up crashing in Virginia.
Just after 3 p.m. social media lit up with reports from all across the DMV that a loud boom had been felt and heard. Everything ranging from an earthquake to a meteor crash and gas explosions were being discussed as a cause. By 6:45 p.m. the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) had put out a statement.
"In coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, NORAD F-16 fighter aircraft responded to an unresponsive Cessna 560 Citation V aircraft over Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia on June 4, 2023," the statement read. "The NORAD aircraft were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds and a sonic boom may have been heard by residents of the region."
The fighter jets were able to intercept the pilot around 3:20 p.m.
"The pilot was unresponsive and the Cessna subsequently crashed near the George Washington National Forest, Virginia," NORAD said.
The plane that crashed was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc. John Rumpel, who runs the company, told The New York Times that his daughter, 2-year-old granddaughter, her nanny and the pilot were aboard the plane. They were returning to their home in East Hampton, on Long Island, after visiting his house in North Carolina, he said.
At 8 p.m., first responders were able to reach the crash site by foot in a rural part of the Shenandoah Valley.
State police has suspended its search efforts.
No survivors were located.
It was not immediately clear why the plane was nonresponsive, why it crashed or how many people were on board.
READ: The full NORAD statement below:
The FAA also confirmed that a Cessna Citation jet crashed in the area of Montebello, Virginia. The aircraft took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee, and was bound for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York.
FAA officials say the National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation into the crash.
A sonic boom is defined as "a loud explosive noise caused by the shock wave from an aircraft traveling faster than the speed of sound."
The Capitol Police said that due to the flight activity, the Capitol was placed on a brief "elevated alert."
“This afternoon, our officials were working closely with our federal partners to monitor an unresponsive pilot who was flying an airplane near the National Capital Region," USCP wrote in a statement. "The U.S. Capitol Complex was briefly placed on an elevated alert until the airplane left the area."
Secret Service said nothing about protection details for the president were changed during the event.
WUSA9 received video and heard from multiple witnesses who said the boom shook their homes.