A Horizon Air employee described as "suicidal" commandeered an empty turboprop passenger plane at Seattle's main airport Friday night and roared low over Puget Sound with a pair of Air Force F-15s in pursuit before crashing it into a small island, authorities said. "The responding fighter pilots flew alongside the aircraft and we were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us, but in the end, the man flying the stolen plane crashed on Ketron Island". There were no passengers aboard.
Later on the pilot says: "I've got a lot of people that care about me".
Two F-15s fighter jets pursued the plane but were not involved in the crash, local TV station KIRO7 reported. Earlier in the evening, officials at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport said an Alaska Airlines plane had been stolen and later crashed.
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor described the incident at a press conference as a "joyride gone terribly wrong".
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".
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Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, said on Twitter the man was suicidal and there was no connection to terrorism. The employee was a "ground service agent", according to Alaska Airlines (Horizon Air is a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group).
The 76-seater aircraft took off without authorization Friday night with an airline employee at the controls, airport officials tweeted.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling the jets, which "were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us", he said in a statement.
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. I wouldn't want to do that.
Normal operations at the airport were interrupted briefly but have resumed, the airport said.
He said he'd "like to apologize to each and every one of them".
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"They don't have any of that stuff", the air-traffic controller said.
In one, the controller can be heard telling the pilot: "What we don't want to see is you get hurt or anyone else get hurt, so like I said, if you want to land, that's probably the best way to go".
"I don't know, man", the pilot answers. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. He was chased by military jets before crashing into an island in the Puget Sound. "Never really knew it until now". "I would hope it is for a guy like me".
Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft near the airport.
"We're working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened, working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board".
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Saturday morning Trump is monitoring the situation.
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