A 29-year-old man stole a plane with no one else on board from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport late Friday before crashing on a nearby island, authorities said.
The man was a resident of Pierce County, Wash., and “acted alone,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department tweeted, describing him as “suicidal.”
Alaska Airlines said it “believes” the man was a ground service agent working for Horizon Air. He took off without clearance at around 8 p.m. local time before crashing about an hour later, the company said in a statement.
The plane was in a “maintenance position,” the company said, and was not scheduled for any passenger flights. Horizon is owned by Alaska Air Group, Inc., which also owns Alaska Airlines.
Reporter Austin Jenkins of Northwest News Network circled Ketron Island, the site of the crash landing, by boat Friday night. “There was smoke. We saw flames on the hillside, police boats circling, helicopters overhead,” he told NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday.
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. The F-15s were scrambled from Portland and were not involved in the crash.
The Bombardier Q400 is a turboprop airplane made for shorter flights, according to Alaska Airlines. It has 76 coach seats and is about 108 feet long.
The airport says normal operations at Sea-Tac have resumed.
According to UPI the pilot died in the crash.
The man who hijacked an Alaska Airlines plane in Seattle on Friday night taking it for a joyride before crashing on an island in a ball of flames is a married 29-year-old Horizon Air employee who dreamed of joining the military.
The mechanic, referred to as ‘Rich’ and ‘Richard’ by air traffic controllers, was born in Key West, Florida and moved to Alaska as a child.
He met his wife in Oregon in 2010 while they were in school and married one year later. The newlyweds then opened a bakery together, which is now closed. They moved to Seattle in 2015.
While living in Seattle, Rich started working for Horizon Airlines with the hopes of working in a management position. He also had dreams of becoming an officer in the military.
His main role at the airport was to unload bags, and seems to have had no flying experience. He was also not permitted to fly planes.