Raphine Volunteer Fire Dept. crew first-on-scene to plane crash wreckage

RAPHINE, Va. – A local first responder was on the team that first discovered the site of the plane crash near the Augusta-Nelson County line Sunday.

Four people died and the erratic flight path over D. C. prompted a military response.

10 News spoke to the Raphine Volunteer Fire Dept. about their role in the search and what they found.

When the Cessna citation jet crashed Sunday in Montebello and the nation was scrambling to figure out why it flew erratically over the nation’s capital, volunteers from the Raphine Volunteer Fire Dept. were responding to a car crash.

“Going to the wreck one of our firefighters had seen a plum of smoke and had mentioned it looks like something was on fire, but at the time we didn’t know it would be a plane crash,” Chelsea Brook, Lt. of the Raphine Volunteer Fire Dept. said.

The FAA says the Cessna citation jet took off from Elizabethton, Tennessee, Sunday and was headed for Long Island’s MacArthur Airport.

Inexplicably, the plane turned around over Long Island and flew a straight path down over D. C. Before it crashed near Montebello, around 3:30 p.m.

The crash sounds and sonic booms from responding F-16′s could be heard for miles.

Not knowing exactly what or who they would be looking for ... Lt. Brooks said they headed to the mountain.

“It was very foggy up on the mountain at the time, so we were trying to distinguish what could be smoke ... what could be fog. The fog was moving in pretty heavy and it was dense,” she said.

The military’s F-16′s pin-pointed crash coordinates for teams to hike while others searched from the air.

An hour and twenty minutes later, Team One from Raphine found the wreckage.

“After that, it was just relief that we found it, but then sadness there were no survivors,” Brooks said. “It definitely changes your mindset when you go from a possible rescue to a recovery.”

A tough realization for those frantically searching.

“He said it was emotional. He was worn out physically, mentally, emotionally ... hike in, hike out ... what he saw ... he said it there was a crater ... shrapnel everywhere ... it was just a lot of pieces.”

It’s still not clear why the plane crashed, but official reports say the pilot appeared to be slumped over and unresponsive.

The passengers from Long Island include a mother, her two-year-old daughter, and the child’s nanny.

About the Authors:

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.

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