USA

Airline worker who stole US plane a ‘broken guy’

A US airline employee has stolen an empty plane from a Washington state airport and crashed it into nearby island.

Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by two F-15 military jets near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport before it crashed into Ketron Island, south west of Tacoma.

The suspect was identified as a 29-year-old Pierce County resident and the sheriff's office said he was an employee "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills".

Image: Water supply is 'a large issue' on Ketron Island, making extinguishing the blaze difficult. Pic: West Pierce Fire

It added: "This is not a terrorist incident. Confirmed info.. this is a single suicide male. We know who he is. No others involved."

Alaska Airlines said the suspect was a ground service employee who helps de-ice planes and direct aircraft to gates.

The F-15s had been scrambled from Portland and had "made it within a few minutes of theft of plane", the sheriff's office said.

Air traffic controllers tried to encourage the pilot to land 0:32
Video: Air traffic control: 'We don't want you to get hurt'

Officers were conducting a background investigation on the man, who they did not identify but who was identified as "Rich" in audio recordings.

They added that the man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he's "got a lot of people that care about me" and that he was "just a broken guy".

:: LIVE: Airline mechanic who stole plane was "a broken guy"

A Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, reported to be hijacked, flies over Fircrest, Washington, the U.S 0:43
Video: Stolen plane chased by military jets

The US Coast Guard said it sent a 45ft vessel to the crash scene after reports of a large plume of smoke in the air.

Leah Morse, who watched the plane flying over her house tailed by the jets, said: "I was outside watering and heard the jets, saw the plane coming, and something told me to get my phone and record.

"Felt it in my gut something was wrong."

Air Alaska passengers wait in the terminal following an incident where an airline employee took off in an airplane, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, Washington, U.S., August 10, 2018
Image: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport officials said flights have resumed

Ms Morse said her mother, who lives near the crash site, had said eight minutes later that her whole house shook.

"We saw the jets circle back after and she texted that there was no plane."

The F-15s were not involved in the crash, it was reported.

Alaska Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Sea-Tac International Airport Friday evening, Aug. 10, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. Officials at Sea-Tac International Airport say an Alaska Airlines plane that was stolen by an airline employee and has crashed in Washington state. Airport officials said in a tweet Friday night that an airline employee "conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers." (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Image: Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the US west

Horizon Air chief operating officer Constance von Muehlen confirmed one of the airline's employees had made the "unauthorised take-off" at around 8pm local time.

She confirmed no other crew or passengers had been on the 76-seater Q400.

"Our hearts are with the family of the individual aboard as well as all our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees," she added.

Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the US west.

More from United States

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport officials grounded flights temporarily during the drama but later said normal operations had resumed.

:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

Original Article

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