Police: Mechanic steals Horizon Air passenger plane crashes
Pierce County Sheriff’s Department says that the ‘suicidal’ 29-year-old man stole the empty turboprop from Seattle’s SeaTac airport, performed an unauthorized take-off for the crash in the vicinity of Ketron Island, Washington. F-15’s were encoded to intercept the plane, but terrorism is not suspected as a motive.
A passenger plane has crashed on an island in the Puget Sound on Friday night, not long after a suspect and conducted an “unauthorized take-off” of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in the state of Washington, the officials said.
Man is confirmed a suicidal man. Acting alone, he is 29 years old, Pierce county residence . We are working to return the land in him now.
— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) August 11, 2018
Witnesses reported seeing a large plume of smoke in the air above Ketron Island.
We are aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400. We believe that there are no passengers on board. More information as we learn more.
— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) On August 11, 2018
The unauthorized pilot was a 29-year-old “suicidal man,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter.
An airline employee carried out an unauthorized flight without passengers to Sea-Tac; plane crashed in the south of Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.
— Sea-Tac Airport (@SeaTacAirport) August 11, 2018
“I have a lot of people who care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I want to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken man, got a few screws loose, I think,” the suspect said in audio handle of an air traffic control scanner and cited by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
#BREAKING Alaska Airlines says that it is aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. This video was taken by a woman who lives south of the airport. She says this is the plane. (Courtney Jensen Junka) pic.twitter.com/Zh3E4aGfSk
— Fox26 News (@KMPHFOX26) August 11, 2018
In another instance, the defendant joked or the airline wants to hire him as a pilot as he landed the plane safely.
The man, who was addressed as “Rich” in the audio recordings of air traffic controllers, said he did not want to land at a nearby military base.
He told them, “these guys will rough me up if I try it and the country.”
The crash of the Horizon Air Q400 — described as a 76-seat aircraft designed for short trips — occurred because the pilot was “doing stunts in the air or a lack of flying skills,” the sheriff’s department said.
Horizon is a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines.
Airport officials confirmed via social media that there are no passengers were aboard the plane. They also said that the activities at the airport had resumed after having been temporarily stopped.
Some unconfirmed reports on social media said the suspect was believed to have been an airline mechanic.
Around 9:15 pm PDT, Alaska Airlines tweeted: “We are aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400. We believe that there are no passengers on board. More information as we learn more.”
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice, soon after the take-off:
“We can’t confirm anything at this time. We try to get accurate information about what is really going on. Without confirmation of something, a stolen plane would be a security issue.
“The FAA is not a security agency, although we work closely with other government departments on security.”
Authorities reportedly tried to intercept aircraft with an F-15 aircraft.
The U. S. Coast Guard planned to send a 45-foot vessel to the scene of the accident after witnesses reported seeing a large plume of smoke in the air, Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said.
Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group. According to Alaska Airlines, the Q400 is a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats, designed to fly shorter distances at a maximum height of around 25,000 feet.
Apparently someone stole a plane from SeaTac? Saw two fighter jets flying overhead than smoke pic.twitter.com/w0bveGUJQH
— McKenna Brown (@mckenna_brown) August 11, 2018
Travelers and residents can see the plane during the flight were quick to post messages on social media.
A message from Horizon Air’s Chief Operating Officer Constance von Muehlen: https://t.co/BDhk9pf1Yt
— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) On August 11, 2018
“Apparently someone stole a plane from SeaTac airport?” wrote a Twitter user. “Saw two fighter jets flying overhead than smoke.”
“A number of people have stolen a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), has a loop-the-loop, ALMOST crashed in #ChambersBay, then crossed for our party, pursued by fighter jets and then crashed. Strange times, ” wrote another user.
Fire officials responded to the site of the crash, which started a few fires in the area, Seattle P-I reported.
Several flights remained on the SeaTac tarmac after the service was halted while the authorities worked the situation. Other flights from San Francisco, Honolulu, Los Angeles were diverted to Portland, oregon, the website reported.
“Our hearts are with the family of the person on board as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees,” said Alaska’s Chief operating Officer Constance von Muehlen in a recorded video statement. “We will give more information as it becomes available.”
This is a story. Come back regularly for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.