F-15s scramble as 'suicidal' mechanic steals, crashes empty plane in Seattle

Airliner takes off without authorization at Sea-Tac crashes in Puget Sound	 	 	 			A Horizon Q400 | Source Alaska Airlines

Officials say an airline employee stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane and took off from the airport Friday night.

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400 doing large loops and other unsafe maneuvers as the sun set on the Puget Sound. It said the jets were not involved in the crash. His identity and condition are unknown.

Two military F-15s chased the plane "within a few minutes of theft of plane" and "kept plane out of harms way and people on ground safe", the sheriff's department said.

Operations at Sea-Tac airport, the largest commercial airpot in the Pacific Northwest, were temporarily halted during the incident, but resumed after the hijacking came to its tragic end.

Authorities initially said the man was a mechanic but Alaska Airlines later said he was believed to be a ground service agent employed by Horizon.

But in the chilling audio recording from the cockpit, the pilot told the air traffic controller that he was "just a broken guy", and said he couldn't land over fears he would be imprisoned.

On the air-traffic control feed, the air-traffic controller can be heard trying to persuade the man, who he addressed as Rich and Richard, to land safely at a nearby airstrip.

Earlier in the flight, the man says: "This is probably like jail time for life, huh?"

During another part of the exchange, the man said he was concerned he was going to run low on fuel.

Later on the pilot says: "I've got a lot of people that care about me".

Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, said on Twitter the man was suicidal and there was no connection to terrorism.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement, thanking Air National Guard from Washington and OR for their quick response, and saying, "There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident of a stolen Horizon Airline plane from Sea-Tac Airport".

Pastor said the plane crashed into Ketron Island, a small heavily-wooded island with around 20 full-time residents. There were no passengers aboard.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man, whose name was not immediately released, "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life". Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess.

A lone airline employee conducted the takeoff, according to airport officials. Military jets were scrambled from Portland, but it does not appear that these jets were involved in the crash of the Horizon aircraft.

The crash occurred because the person was "doing stunts in the air or lack of flying skills", the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said.

The unidentified 29-year-old man spoke to a controller on a live air-traffic control feed during the hour-long episode. Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said a 45-foot vessel was headed to the scene.

A plane was stolen from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport late on Friday.

Officials with Alaska Airlines confirmed the plane as a Bombardier Q400 that belongs to Horizon Air. "We believe that it was taken by a single Horizon Air employee, and that no other passengers or crew were on board".

The 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop plane took off without authorization around 8 p.m. local time, with an unauthorized Horizon Air employee at the controls, airport officials tweeted.

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