Suicidal Airport Employee Steals & Crashes Empty Plane
A 29-year old airport employee described as “suicidal” has crashed an empty plane he stole from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night.
According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the man, who was called Rich by air traffic control personnel, is an Alaska Air Horizon employee who allegedly stole the Horizon Air Q400, causing the airport to shut down temporarily Friday night.
“Male is confirmed a suicidal male. Acted alone he is 29-year-old Pierce county residence [sic],” the police said, adding that it was not a “terrorist incident”.
The police suggested that the crash occurred because the man was “doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills.” He crashed the plane near a small island in the Puget Sound in Washington.
Two military F-15 fighter jets were scrambled to chase the stolen plane, but “were not involved in the crash,” local officials said.
Video taken by a bystander showed the passenger airplane making an unlikely upside-down 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. Officials said there were no victims on the ground.
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.
Horizon Air chief operating officer Constance von Muehlen issued a video statement describing the incident.
“We believe it (the plane) was taken by a single Horizon Air employee and no other passengers or crew were on board,” she said. “Our hearts are with the family of the individual aboard as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees.”
We are aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400. We believe there are no passengers on board. More information as we learn more.
— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) August 11, 2018
The plane was stolen at around 8pm (3am GMT Saturday) and crashed 90 minutes later, officials said.
John Waldron, who took dramatic video of the stolen plane flying in a loop, told CNN that he was out for an evening stroll when he saw the two fighter jets following the turboprop airplane.
His first thought was that they were practicing for an air show. So he started to capture video, Waldron said it seemed that the jets were chasing down the airplane. “I thought this is really odd. Kept the video rolling.Then the passenger plane pilot “did a complete loop … I couldn’t believe he recovered.”
The insane pilot, identified as “Rich,” made an apologetic conversation with the control tower.
“Congratulations, you did it,” the control tower tells “Rich,” according to audio that aired on CNN. “Let’s turn around the air and land it and not hurt anybody on the ground.”
“I don’t know, man,” the pilot answers. “I don’t want to. I was kind of hoping that was going to be it, you know.”
“Rich” explains that he had put some fuel in the plane “to go check out the Olympics,” but then worried that he was low on gasoline.
“I’m down to 2,100 (pounds) [952 kilos],” he says, “I don’t know what the burnage is like on takeoff, but it burned quite a bit faster than I expected.”
The control tower gently urges him to land at a nearby military base. “I wouldn’t want to do that. They probably have anti-aircraft,” he responds.
“This is probably jail time for life, huh?” he later asks, according to a recording provided by the Seattle Times.
He also added:
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it, until now.”