UNBELIEVABLE: Man steals passenger jet from airport, crashes 15 minutes later after being chased by F-15 fighters
The plane took off at Sea-Tac Airport and crashed near Ketron Island in Pierce County after 'doing stunts in air'
Panic ensued after an airport employee decided to take a Q400 passenger plane out for a spin at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington on Friday night. The plane crashed a few minutes after the unauthorized take off and authorities have said that there were no passengers onboard the plane. The plane reportedly performed some "stunts" before crashing into the ground.
The officials at Sea-Tac Airport said that the empty passenger jet was flown by one of their employees without permission on Friday night forcing the National Guard to scramble two fighter jets to chase the aircraft.
According to local news reports, the plane was brought down by two F-15 fighters. F-15 fighter planes are on standby for 24 hours in a day to respond in case of a hijack. After one of them could make contact with the rogue plane, it went straight to the ground before crashing. They did not shoot the plane down and were not involved in the crash. The Q400 is said to have taken off around 8 pm local time only to crash about 15 minutes after. It went down near Ketron Island in Pierce County.
Initially, worries arose that the man could have been a terrorist but the police confirmed that it was "not a terrorist incident". They said that the man who stole the plane was a 29-year-old local. He is reportedly a mechanic at the airport.
Pierce County Sheriff's Office said that the man was a "suicidal male" and that his crash can be attributed to him "doing stunts in air" or because of a "lack of flying skills". They also said that the man, a Pierce County resident, was acting alone and did not have an accomplice.
The authorities also said that the two F-15 planes "made it within a few minutes of theft of plane" and the "pilots kept the plane out of harm's way and people on the ground safe."
The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is “just a broken guy.”
An air traffic controller called the man “Rich,” and tried to convince the man to land the airplane.
“There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile,” the controller says, reffering to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,” the man responded, later adding, “This is probably jail time for life, huh?”
When asked if he needed some help he said: "Nah, I mean, I don’t need that much help; I’ve played some video games before. I would like to figure out how to get this… make it pressurised or something so I’m not so lightheaded."
Later the man said: “I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this...Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess.”
Alaska Airlines in a statement said that it was fully aware of the incident that had occurred. They tweeted, "We've confirmed a Horizon Air Q400 that had an unauthorized takeoff from SeaTac around 8pm has gone down near Ketron Island in Pierce County, WA. 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."
While this may have caused a temporary glitch, the airport was back on its feet soon after. The Sea-Tac twitter page tweeted saying, "An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed."
A toll-free hotline has been established for anyone who believes they may know the person involved in the Horizon Air incident. The number is 1-888-283-2153. Appropriate government agencies, including NTSB, FAA and FBI, have been notified. Constance von Muehlen, Chief Operating Officer of Horizon Air said, "Our hearts are with the families of the individual aboard as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees. We will provide more information as it becomes available."