An apparently suicidal mechanic stole an empty passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma airport late Friday, took it for a brief flight then crashed it in an incident officials said was unrelated to terrorism.
Two military F-15s were scrambled to chase the stolen plane, but local officials said the jets “were not involved in the crash.”
Video taken by a bystander showed the passenger airplane making an unlikely upside-down aerial loop, then flying low over Puget Sound before crashing into the sparsely populated Ketron Island in the northwestern US state of Washington.
The crash sparked a fire in the dense forest. Flames lit up the night as they spread from the burning wreckage to nearby trees.
An airline employee “conducted an unauthorized takeoff” of an airplane carrying no passengers, then “crashed in south Puget Sound,” Sea-Tac Airport officials said on Twitter.
The stolen plane was a twin engine turboprop Q400 airplane belonging to its sister carrier Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines said on Twitter. It normally carries 76 passengers.
“This is not a terrorist incident,” Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s office wrote on Twitter.
“Confirmed info… this is a single suicide male. We know who he is. No others involved,” Troyer wrote
The suspect was identified as a 29-year-old airline mechanic and Pierce county resident who “acted alone,” Troyer added, confirming that there were “no passengers on the plane” when it crashed.
The sheriff’s office also said that the F-15s, which were scrambled out of Portland, in the nearby state of Oregon, arrived minutes after the plane was stolen and kept the aircraft “out of harms way and people on ground safe.”