Sonic boom heard in Central Maryland was caused by NORAD jets pursuing ‘unresponsive aircraft’ that later crashed, officials say

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Search and rescue teams leave the command post at St. Mary's Wilderness en route to the Blue Ridge Parkway to search for the site where a Cessna Citation crashed over mountainous terrain near Montebello, Va., Sunday, June 4, 2023. (Randall K. Wolf via AP)

A large boom that shook houses in the Annapolis area Sunday and was heard elsewhere in Maryland was caused by military fighter jets following an “unresponsive” aircraft that later crashed in Virginia, according to defense officials.

The noise came from F-16 fighter aircraft that “were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds” as they pursued a civilian business jet over D.C. and Virginia after 3 p.m. Sunday, according to a news release from the North American Aerospace Defense Command.


NORAD attempted to contact the aircraft’s pilot, who was unresponsive until the jet crashed near the George Washington National Forest in western Virginia, the air defense force said.

Four people were onboard, and no survivors were located when Virginia State Police arrived at the crash site Sunday evening.


Some felt the shock wave of the sonic boom as far as Brooklyn and Davidsonville, and across the bay in Grasonville, residents wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

Kevin Simmons, director of the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management, said calls started streaming into the city’s 911 center after the boom. His office promptly tweeted that the noise came from a military aircraft.

“The loud boom that was heard across the [District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia] area was caused by an authorized DOD flight. This flight caused a sonic boom,” the department said in a tweet.

A sonic boom is a large amount of sound energy associated with shock waves created by an airborne object, such as a fighter jet, traveling faster than the speed of sound.

An F-16C Fighting Falcon, similar to the one Maryland residents heard overhead Sunday. flies by during a U.S. Air Force firepower demonstration at the Nevada Test and Training Range in September 2007 near Indian Springs, Nevada.

Annapolis firefighters responded and found no damage to buildings. “There is no evidence of explosions,” Simmons said.

The military flight originated from Joint Base Andrews, the City of Bowie tweeted, noting that the boom was heard in the Prince George’s County municipality. President Joe Biden was playing golf with his brother at Joint Base Andrews around the time the fighter jet took off, The Associated Press reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the business jet, a Cessna 560 Citation V aircraft, was flying to New York from Tennessee and crashed into “mountainous terrain” near Montebello, Virginia, at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

Flying directly over D.C., the jet rapidly spiraled downward and dropped at one point at a rate of more than 30,000 feet per minute before crashing in the St. Mary’s Wilderness, the AP reported. The wilderness area is located east on Interstate 81 between Staunton and Lexington, Virginia.


Police and rescue units in Virginia were able to reach the crash site by foot at about 8 p.m. Sunday, according to Virginia State Police. The agency said in a statement that no survivors were located, and state police had suspended their search efforts.

Authorities secure the entrance to Mine Bank Trail, an access point to the rescue operation along the Blue Ridge Parkway where a Cessna Citation crashed over mountainous terrain near Montebello, Virginia, on Sunday.

Troopers returned to the crash site Monday and collected the remains of the pilot and three passengers who were onboard, a spokesperson said. The remains will be taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia for examination, autopsy and positive identification.

The downed plane is registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc., a Florida company whose owner, John Rumpel, told The New York Times on Sunday that his daughter, Adina Azarian, 2-year-old granddaughter, Aria, as well as her nanny and the pilot were aboard.

In this undated photo provided by Lakhinder Vohra, Adina Azarian poses for a picture in East Hampton, New York. Azarian was one of four people killed in a plane that crashed in a remote part of Virginia on Sunday.

The AP reported Azarian, 49, was a single mother and a well-known real estate figure in New York City and Long Island, described as a competitive entrepreneur who started her own brokerage.

NTSB investigators began trudging through the Virginia wilderness Monday to reach the crash site, the AP reported. It took investigators several hours to hike into the rural area near Montebello, about 60 miles, NTSB spokesperson Eric Weiss told the wire service.

An investigator from the federal agency told reporters that board personnel would be onsite for about three days, probing when the pilot became unresponsive and why the aircraft flew the path that it did.


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Fighter pilots intercepting the downed jet recounted that the pilot appeared to be slumped over and unresponsive, three U.S. officials told the AP on Monday. The officials had been briefed on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the military operation.

The NTSB expects to release a preliminary report within 10 days of Monday and a final report in one to two years.