The Hamptons realtor who died with her daughter when their plane crashed in rural Virginia was adopted at 40 by a Trump donor couple who thought she reminded them of a daughter they lost in a scuba diving accident aged 19 in 1994.
Azarian was the adopted daughter of John and Barbara Rumpel, who owned the Cessna plane that crashed. They are notable donors to GOP causes and gave $250,000 to the Trump Victory PAC in 2020.
The jet was flying to East Hampton on Sunday carrying Azarian, her two-year-old daughter, Aria, their nanny and the pilot, when it mysteriously U-turned, triggering the dispatch of military jets, and crashed.
Rumpel told the Post of how he came to adopt Azarian. He also spoke of how she had tried so hard to have a child herself and how he watched her go through a years-long in vitro fertilization process to become pregnant with Aria.
John Rumpel, who owned the aircraft and was Azarian’s adoptive father, identified Jeff Hefner (pictured) as the pilot in an interview with The Washington Post
Adina Azarian (left), her two-year-old daughter (center) and the child’s nanny Evadnie Smith (right) were killed when a jet they were in crashed in rural Virginia on Sunday
John Rumpel (left) owned the Cessna aircraft that crashed and adopted Azarian with his wife Barbara (right) when she was 40. The two are pictured at a 2017 NRA Foundation dinner
Adina Azarian, 49, was adopted by John and Barbara Rumpel at the age of 40 because she reminded them of their first child Victoria, who died in a diving accident in 1994 aged 19. Azarian is pictured with her daughter
Smith was a live-in nanny at Azarian’s home in East Hampton, New York, according to The Sun. Originally from Jamaica, Azarian’s friends told the outlet she was a ‘beautiful soul of a woman’ who was incredibly close to the mother and daughter.
She was such an amazing woman,’ Azarian’s friend Sandy Castillo told The Sun in an interview.
Other friends of Azarian described to The New York Post how she suffered miscarriages and failed rounds of IVF before finally giving birth to Aria.
‘It would be fitting that they are together,’ Azarian’s childhood friend Tara Brivic-Looper told the outlet. ‘I don’t think they ever weren’t together, so if Adina was going anywhere, Aria was always with her.’
‘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,’ said Brivic-Looper, who attended the Dwight School in Manhattan with Azarian.
‘It was just the two of them every single day. That was what she always wanted,’ said Brivic-Looper.
Azarian discussed her difficulties having a child in a 2020 Facebook post, soon after Aria’s birth.
‘Three years ago I decided I wanted to choose to become a mother,’ Azarian wrote.
‘With my biological clock ticking, I ended up on a long journey of fertility treatments, IUI, IVF, multiple miscarriages, failed embryo transfers and more.
‘I went inward and drew upon my own inner strength to keep going. It was hard but I knew deep down there would be a miracle if I did not give up.’
‘I offer my story as a source of inspiration for any woman going through the same struggles with infertility or simply with the decision to create your own family on our own terms,’ she wrote.
‘Sometimes life takes you places where you didn’t imagine it at first but where there is faith, where there is courage, where there is God, there is also hope.’
Adina’s adoptive parents are prominent GOP donors, John and Barbara Rumpel, shown with Trump in March 2020. They are pictured with Donald Trump in March 2020
John and Barbara Rumpel pictured in an NRA Women’s Leadership Forum feature
Azarian (pictured) was described by colleagues as an ‘iconic’ real estate agent working out of the Hamptons and New York City
The jet was carrying Adina Azarian, her two-year-old daughter, their nanny and the pilot, who has not yet been named. It took off at 1.13pm from Elizabethton Airport in Tennessee and was scheduled to land at MacArthur Airport in Islip, on Long Island. Instead, it flew north then performed an about-turn and then crashed in Virginia
Hefner’s previous employer, the head of a law firm where Hefner worked as a flight captain, told CNN the pilot is survived by his wife and three children.
He was described as ‘a highly accomplished and skilled Aviator, he flew 25 years with as a Captain with Southwest Airlines and had over 25,000 flight hours,’ attorney Dan Newlin told CNN in a statement.
John Rumpel told the Washington Post that a love for small planes was only meant to bring the family together.
He also said he had never had any issues with the Cessna Citation plane which he used last month to fly from his home in Florida to a second home in the mountains of North Carolina.
Rumpel said police told him the cabin may have lost pressurization, causing those inside, including the pilot, to lose consciousness.
The plane took off at 1.13pm from Elizabethton Airport in Tennessee and was scheduled to land at MacArthur Airport in Islip, on Long Island.
The plane instead approached MacArthur but then turned around at 2.45pm and flew south again, alerting DC officials.
No one on board answered calls from the ground, prompting two F-16 fighter jets from Joint Base Andrews to rush to its side to investigate – a sonic boom was heard over parts of DC and Virginia.
Once in the air, the F-16 pilots reported seeing the Cessna pilot slumped over in the cockpit. Within moments, the Cessna crashed, falling around 28,000ft-a-minute into St Mary’s Wilderness, around 175 miles southwest of Washington DC.
While the tragedy remains under investigation, aviation experts tell DailyMail.com it was likely down to cabin pressure failure which will have caused the pilot – and everyone else – to pass out from a lack of oxygen.
When the plane approached Long Island, rather than landing it diverted back to the south.
Azarian (pictured) discussed her difficulties having a child and told her story as a ‘source of inspiration’ to other women experiencing similar struggles
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
Authorities secure the entrance to Mine Bank Trail, an access point to the rescue operation along the Blue Ridge Parkway where the jet crashed on Sunday
Kyle Bailey, a former FAA Safety Team Representative, told DailyMail.com it was likely the result of the pilot programming his route.
‘What appears to have happened as the plane was flying to Islip, it’ was very high.
‘They very well might have been incapacitated [by then]. The pilot has waypoints in the program, it’s similar to a GPS system. So the autopilot might have been flying him to Islip, then the next point could have very well have been the airport they departed from.
‘It could have been towards DC or somewhere down south. It looks like it was affixed in that direction. In that scenario, it’s likely the plane was flying itself.’
‘It’s most likely a loss of cabin pressure or the pilot became incapacitated. He could have had a heart attack or something like that but judging by the fact there weren’t any emergency calls made from the passengers that we know of, I’m leaning more toward loss of cabin pressure.
‘It typically happens in older planes,’ Kyle Bailey, a former FAA Safety Team Representative, told DailyMail.com.
The Cessna involved was a Cessna Citation V 560 manufactured in 1990. It belonged to the company run by John and Barbara Rumpel.
‘It wouldn’t have the latest and greatest technology, the planes really evolved around the year 2000 that’s when the technology really went crazy,’ Bailey said.
Such planes have many pressure relief valves which could have failed. It could have been sudden or gradual, she said.