Airline mechanic steals a plane from Seattle airport and crashes, officials say

Arturo Kim
August 11, 2018

After the plane approached Ketron Island, Waldron saw a thick column of smoke followed by a loud explosion.

A "suicidal" airline mechanic stole an empty Alaska Airlines plane from a Seattle airport and performed stunts while being chased through the sky before crashing near a small island. There were no passengers aboard.

Later the man said: "I've got a lot of people that care about me".

According to the unverified Twitter profile of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, the plane was stolen by a mechanic from an unknown airline company, based on preliminary information.

"Oh, Richard", said the controller, "We're not going to worry or think about that".

"A joyride gone terribly wrong", Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said during a news conference in Steilacoom, which is about 3 miles from the island.

An airline employee who stole a Horizon Air passenger plane from a Seattle airport told air traffic controllers that he was a "broken guy" but also joked about whether the airline would hire him as a pilot if he landed safely. The jets were not involved in the crash, it said. "Our hearts are with the family of the individual aboard as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees".

The Bombardier Q400 is a turboprop airplane made for shorter flights, according to Alaska Airlines.

Authorities initially said the man was a mechanic but Alaska Airlines later said he was an employee who helps direct aircraft to gates and de-ice planes.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling the jets, which "were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us", he said in a statement. I don't know! I don't want to.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport officials grounded flights temporarily during the drama but later said normal operations had resumed.

At one point, he apologizes and says he is a "broken guy" with "a few screws loose".

Instead, police described the man as "suicidal" who experienced "emotional distress" when communicating with air traffic controllers. "I was kind of hoping that was gonna be it". They pursued the aircraft before it went down on Ketron Island between Tacoma and Olympia.

The last known transmission was from about 8:47 p.m., the Times reported, well before the crash was reported around 9:30 p.m. "Never really knew it until now".

Unverified video footage on social media showed a large plane flying above the Seattle area with an F-15 following it.

Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft near the airport. "The smoke lingered. You could still hear the F-15s, which were flying low". Prior to crashing, the aircraft was filmed conducting extreme maneuvers over the Puget Sound, including a barrel roll and inverted vertical dive culminating in a high g pull-out just a few feet above the water's surface.

"We're working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened, working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board".

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement early Saturday that President Trump was briefed on the incident and is "monitoring the situation".

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