VIRGINIA, USA — On board the plane that crashed in Virginia over the weekend was a 49 year-old beloved realtor, a 2-year-old little girl, a woman who worked as a nanny, and a pilot with years of experience.
Adina Azarian, 49, and her daughter Aria, 2, were both killed in the crash.
"She was the most beautiful thing in my life," said John Rumpel as he choked back tears.
"I'm sorry," he said to WUSA9 as he broke down in tears, trying to explain just how much the two meant to him.
"She was cute. She was a beautiful child and I don’t know what else I can say about her. I loved her deeply," said Rumpel.
Rumpel told WUSA9 he's the owner of the plane that slammed into a mountain Sunday, killing four people.
Monday, a crater of wreckage on a hard-to-reach ridge of rural Virginia mountains was all that remained of a Cessna Citation private jet that caused military jets to scramble at supersonic speeds before crashing and killing the pilot and three passengers on board.
Adina and Aria lived in East Hampton on Long Island. Adina was an "iconic real estate agent in New York City and Long Island," according to a spokesperson for Keller Williams where she worked.
"I owned an apartment building or two in Manhattan and she came to me through a friend whose building she represented for leasing. And I allowed her to lease my building and eventually manage it. That’s how she came into my life and that was over 20 years ago," said Rumpel.
He told WUSA9 that he and his wife grew closer and closer to her. They had lost their biological daughter Victoria, when she was 19 years old.
"My wife and I who have lost a child back in 95," he said.
He says he and his wife became very close to Adina as the years went and on, and "we finally adopted her, because we loved her so much. We wanted her to be ours."
According to a timetable released late Monday by NTSB spokesperson Jennifer Gabris, the plane took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee at 1:13 p.m. Sunday, headed for MacArthur Airport in Long Island, New York. Air Traffic Control lost communication with the airplane during its ascent.
Rumpel said they had flown down to visit him and his wife and were headed back to Long Island.
Jeff Hefner has been identified as the pilot of the plane.
According to three U.S. officials, fighter pilots who intercepted the wayward flight said he appeared to be slumped over and unresponsive.
The officials who said that the fighter pilots saw the civilian pilot slumped over had been briefed on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the military operation.
"He was probably one of the best pilots I've ever met and I'm a pilot myself," said Rumpel.
"Jeff was a highly accomplished and skilled Aviator. He flew 25 years as a Captain with Southwest Airlines and had over 25,000 flight hours," said Dan Newlin.
Newlin told WUSA9 that Hefner was not working for his company at the time of the crash but did fly as a Captain for him previously.
"He was a great, very conscientious pilot. If he thought there was anything wrong, he would ground the plane and take care of it. He was also an aviation, mechanic and inspector, so I trusted him because I trusted his work if for no other reason than because he was the one who had to get in and fly it," said Rumpel.
"You wouldn’t think that he would overlook anything," said Rumpel.
WUSA9 is told Hefner leaves behind his wife and three children.
Also on board the plane was Evadnie Smith, 56, according to the Associated Press. Known to the family as “Nanny V,” Smith traveled frequently with the mother and daughter.
"She was a good Christian woman," said Rumpel.
He shared that they all had a special moment before they boarded their flight, a moment he's grateful they had.
"The one thing I’m thankful for is on our way to the airport, we stopped for breakfast at a friend of mine‘s restaurant, and she said a pretty long prayer and we all paid attention and prayed with her, including the baby, including Adina and I’m so glad that happened. So glad it happened," said Rumpel.