A sonic boom in Washington DC briefly panicked locals, after a pair of fighter jets were scrambled from a nearby air base to respond to an unresponsive pilot in the area.
The private light aircraft intercepted by the planes later crashed into mountainous terrain in south-west Virginia, with no survivors reported among the four people on board.
Officials said the jets did not cause the crash.
Residents of the US capital and surrounding areas in Virginia and Maryland were startled by the loud noise, which was heard around 3.30pm local time yesterday.
A Twitter account for Washington’s Homeland Security & Emergency Management posted: ‘We are aware of reports from communities throughout the National Capital Region of a loud “boom” this afternoon. There is no threat at this time.’
It was followed up later by another tweet from the City of Bowie, Maryland, which said: ‘We have confirmed that the loud boom heard in Bowie was a sonic boom from a plane out of Joint Base Andrews.’
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) said in a statement that jets had been scrambled after a Cessna aircraft veered into the capital’s airspace, above several important national landmarks such as the Pentagon and White House.
It said the planes were ‘authorised to fly at supersonic speeds and a sonic boom may have been heard by residents of the region’.
The US military responded after failing to get in contact with the pilot flying over Washignton DC (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Cessna was registered to Florida-based company Encore Motors of Melbourne, which is owned by pilot John Rumpel.
He told the New York Times that his daughter, his two-year-old granddaughter, her nanny and the pilot were aboard the flight, which had taken off from Tennessee to return home to East Hampton in New York.
The 75-year-old told the newspaper: ‘I don’t think they’ve found the wreckage yet.’
He added: ‘It descended at 20,000 feet a minute, and nobody could survive a crash from that speed.’
Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman, later confirmed to the news site Axios: ‘No survivors were located.’
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The unexpected loud noise startled residents of the US capital.