The identities of all victims aboard the downed passenger plane connected to a sonic boom over the Washington, D.C.-area Sunday have been confirmed as the patriarch tragically detailed, “That’s the end of my family.”
John Rumpel and his wife Barbara had been alerted that something was amiss well before the crash when he received a phone call from the Federal Aviation Administration. Speaking with The Washington Post Monday, the donor who supported former President Donald Trump and other GOP candidates explained they had been seeking an alternative means to reach the pilot, though a reason had not been provided.
More than an hour later he was contacted again and learned of the crash near George Washington National Forest, Virginia that ended the lives of his daughter, 49-year-old real estate agent Adina Azarian, his two-year-old granddaughter, Aria Azarian, her Jamaican-born live-in nanny, Evandie Smith, and the pilot, Jeff Hefner.
“That’s the end of my family,” Rumpel told the Post. “It’s just my wife and I now.”
As previously reported, the Cessna 560 Citation V had departed Elizabethton, Tennessee en route to Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York after his family had visited his home in North Carolina. However, instead of landing on Long Island, the plane turned back, eventually entering restricted airspace, causing Joint Base Andrews to scramble F-16s to intercept.
Chaos in the Capital: Fighter jets boom over DC chasing down rogue airplanehttps://t.co/jXCDAmL1JP
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) June 5, 2023
The accident was just the latest tragedy for the Rumpels who reportedly lost their first daughter, Victoria after she had died in a scuba diving accident at 19 years old. Upon meeting Azarian, the Rumpels were reminded of their late daughter and, after getting to know her, decided to adopt her as their own when she was 40.
“They had the same fire in their bellies, and they were loving, caring children,” he told the Post. “We had no one else and we loved her.”
Azarian had determined to have a child of her own and former classmate Tara-Brivic-Looper told the Post, “She went through everything as a single woman to have a baby, and I can’t say since Aria’s been born, I don’t think I’ve seen her twice without her. It was just the two of them every single day. That was what she always wanted.”
Friends of the family spoke fondly of Smith, affectionately known as “Nanny V” and told the US Sun she was a “remarkable woman with a beautiful soul.”
“She was smiling all the time and was just so full of love,” Azarian’s friend Raphael Avigdor said of Smith. “She was a hard-working woman and a wonderful caretaker.”
Hefner reportedly was rated to fly a number of aircraft including Boeing 737 jets and had “a top-level medical certificate as recently as October,” the Post detailed. He is survived by his wife and three kids.
The ultimate cause of the crash remains under investigation, including what caused the plane to turn around in New York. NTSB investigator Jeff Guzzetti spoke with the outlet and contended that the flight-tracking data suggested Hefner had not been in control of the aircraft sometime before reaching airspace over Long Island.
In addition to running Encore Motors of Melbourne, the company that owns the plane, and contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump, including $250,000 to the Trump Victory PAC in 2020 according to FEC records, Rumpel is also a pilot.
He had voiced his own theory regarding the crash that suggested the plane may have slowly depressurized causing all of those onboard to lose consciousness, a possibility corroborated by sources that reported the F-16 pilots saw Hefner slumped at the controls.
“They all just would have gone to sleep and never woke up,” he said as he hoped none on board had suffered.
The FAA and NTSB indicated a preliminary report of the investigation would likely be ready within three weeks.
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