Sun | Sep 24, 2023

Evadnie Smith had planned to return home, enjoy retirement

Son reflects on mother who perished in DC plane crash

Published:Thursday | June 8, 2023 | 1:25 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Evadnie Smith and Aria
Evadnie Smith and Aria
Adina Azarian beckons her daughter Aria, while Evadnie Smith (right) looks on, as they stand in the kitchen.
Adina Azarian beckons her daughter Aria, while Evadnie Smith (right) looks on, as they stand in the kitchen.

IN A telephone conversation with her son Evando on Sunday, Evadnie Smith expressed a burning desire to retire and return home to Jamaica.

After years of working in the United States, the latter part of which she spent as a nanny, the 56-year-old St Elizabeth woman felt that it was time to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

Evando said that she had begun construction on her retirement home in the parish.

But in a cruel twist of fate mere hours after that phone call, Smith, her employer, Adina Azarian, and her two-year-old daughter Aria and pilot Jeff Hefner perished in a plane crash in Virginia around 3:30 p.m.

Evando said that he did not know of his mother’s death until Monday morning, when he was informed by a relative.

“It’s really devastating, you know. It really hurts,” Evando, Smith’s only child, told The Gleaner yesterday.

He called her jovial and said her frequent inquiries about her extended family, their welfare and the assistance she, often, offered to them proved her selflessness.

“She has been saying that she wants to come home and relax and enjoy her retirement in the country. She liked it over there and never had an issue. She was happy, but she just now wanted to come home and settle,” the 29-year-old said, adding that his mother was the breadwinner who often remitted funds.

She began working as a live-in nanny for Azarian, a luxury real estate broker, after the woman conceived her daughter during the pandemic and needed help to counter her demanding job.

Evando said Azarian fell in love with his mother’s cooking and was also pleased with the way she cared for Aria.

He said that the toddler was smitten with his mother and had become very attached to her.

“She was a chef at heart. Her passion was cooking for people. Her bosses loved her because every Christmas, she cooked all the Jamaican cuisine for them - steamed fish, curry goat, oxtail. Them love the bammy and the ackee,” Evando said of his mother.

“Them love her gone to bed. Even the likkle baby girl love her. She never leave my mother an inch. It just hurt me that she had to go this way,” he added.

Smith’s death is the third for the family in recent months.

The private aircraft, a Cessna 560 Citation V, was reportedly being flown from Tennessee and was scheduled to land in Long Island, New York, when it crashed into a mountain in rural Virginia.

The trio were returning from a four-day visit with Azarian’s adoptive parents, prominent Republican donors John and Barbara Rumpel, in North Carolina.

Military jets were scrambled

US media said that moments before the crash, six military jets were scrambled to intercept the aircraft after it failed to respond to air traffic controllers, did not land at its intended destination at Long Island MacArthur Airport and instead flew over Washington, D.C.

The F-16s, which were authorised to travel at supersonic speeds, used a combination of “manoeuvres and flares” for 30 minutes, the New York Times reported, in an unsuccessful attempt to get the pilot’s attention.

The military jet pilots, after pulling close to the aircraft, said Hefner, 69, was unresponsive and slumped over.

They determined that the aircraft was not a threat before its ultimate crash.

Hundreds of social media users on Sunday reported hearing loud booms, which US authorities later said were effects from the supersonic speed at which the military jets were travelling.

Jamaican Nadine Anderson Hunter, who lives just outside of Annapolis, Maryland, told The Gleaner yesterday that that she was hosting a poetry session at home some time after 3 p.m.

“I heard a big boom and the house shook,” she recalled.

Anderson Hunter said she eventually ignored the noise because of the frequency with which navy training and flyovers took place in the area.

She said that the county later circulated information on the crash.

“I’m sad that the passengers died,” she said.

A friend of Smith’s, Charmaine Williams-Nelson, reminisced about the Jamaican’s awesome personality.

“I’m very, very sad. I spoke to her on Friday. She was an awesome person, a friend,” Williams-Nelson said. “She was an awesome Christian; someone who you can talk with about anything and she gives you advice.”