Stolen Alaska Airlines passenger plane crashes near Seattle
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
A "suicidal" employee stole an Alaska Airlines passenger plane from Seattle Airport late Friday local time and it later crashed just south of the city, the airline and airport authorities confirmed.
Alaska Airlines confirmed the aircraft belonged to its subsidiary Horizon Air and was a Bombardier Dash-8 (Q-400) turboprop aircraft that likely had no passengers on board.
Two f-15 fighter jets were scrambled from nearby Portland to intercept the aircraft, though police said they ultimately had no role in its crash at Puget Sound just south of Seattle, in the state of Washington.
"An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound," Seattle-Tacoma Airport tweeted. "Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed."
"We're working to confirm who was on board, we believe there were no guests or crew on board other than the person operating the plane," the company said.
Local police said that they had identified the man as a 29-year-old from Pierce County who had acted alone.
Some dude stole a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), did a loop-the-loop, ALMOST crashed into #ChambersBay, then crossed in front of our party, chased by fighter jets and subsequently crashed. Weird times. pic.twitter.com/Ra4LcIhwfU— bmbdgty (@drbmbdgty) August 11, 2018
"This is not a terrorist incident. Confirmed info .. this is a single suicide male. We know who he is. No others involved," the Pierce County Sheriff tweeted.
A video uploaded to social media showed an aircraft matching a Q400's profile flying above a rural area, followed by a fighter jet.
In a partial recording made by website The Air Current, the pilot tells air traffic controllers: "there's something wrong, I feel like one of my engines is going out or something."
An air traffic controller refers to the man as "Rich" and advises him to stay over water.
Another recording published by The Aviation Beat reportedly records the pilot asking controllers: “Hey, do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?”
Witnesses at the airport, posting on social media, said they were told that someone had stolen an aircraft.
Dozens of aircraft were lined up on taxiways after landing when the airport instituted a "ground stop," according to flight tracking websites.
'Bizarre' incident filmed
Male is confirmed a suicidal male. Acted alone he is 29 year old Pierce county residence . We are working back ground on him now.— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) August 11, 2018
John Waldron, who took dramatic video of the stolen plane flying in a loop, told CNN that he was out for an evening stroll when he saw the two jet fighters following the turboprop airplane.
His first thought was that they were practicing for an air show. "So, I started to capture video, just because I thought it was, kind of bizarre," he told CNN.
Waldron said it seemed that the jets were chasing down the airplane. "I thought this is really odd. Kept the video rolling."
Then the passenger plane pilot "did a complete loop ... I couldn't believe he recovered."
He estimates that the plane at its lowest point "was no less than 100 feet (30.5 meters) above the water."
Then the pilot "pulled -- pretty much straight up. And kind of at an angle. And almost stalled the aircraft. Somehow he got it leveled back off. And then made his way down toward the island."
Waldron said that he was prepared to "run and take cover." He briefly turned away, then turned back and saw the explosion as the plane crashed.
"Saw a bright, pinpoint area of flame. And the smoke. I thought, oh, my god. I think he just crashed."
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