The sound of a loud explosion that caused panicking residents to flood emergency services with 911 calls has been explained as a sonic boom from two military aircraft scrambling to catch up with a Cessna aircraft with an unresponsive pilot.
Residents reported hearing the large bang, which sparked panic, but the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management reported that the boom heard on Sunday (June 4) was in fact caused by an authorized Department of Defense (DOD) flight.
“The loud boom that was heard across the DMV area was caused by an authorized DOD flight,” the office said.
“This flight caused a sonic boom. That is all the information available at this time.”
Bowie, Maryland, officials confirmed that the sonic boom heard was from a plane out of Joint Base Andrews.
The Continental US North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said two F-16 jets out of an Air National Guard base near Atlantic City, New Jersey and two out of the DC National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base responded to the Cessna over Washington D.C. and northern Virginia.
In order to catch up with the plane, the jets were authorized to fly at supersonic speeds, which caused the sonic boom.
The civilian plane was intercepted at 3.20pm and the fighter pilots reported that the pilot was unresponsive.
NORAD said it continued to try to establish contact until the plane crashed near the George Washington National Forest in Virginia.
NORAD also said people on the ground may have seen flares used while trying to intercept the plane.
The flares, NORAD said, burn out quickly and completely, so there was no danger to the people on the ground.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a Cessna Citation took off from Elizabethton, Tennessee, bound for Islip, New York. It crashed near the sparsely populated town of Montebello, Virginia, but recovery efforts were being hampered by low cloud and fog.
Authorities say they were concerned about the plane because it was flying a strange flight path over the D.C. area. Officials say the F-16s scrambled to investigate saw that the pilot of the aircraft had passed out. The FAA and NTSB have launched an official investigation into the crash.
Congressional sources told Fox News the US Capitol went into “AirCon” as officials tracked the aircraft when it pierced the no-fly zone.
Officials told Fox News that the Capitol was at an “elevated posture” for a short time before determining the plane that entered restricted airspace was not a threat.