Posted by News Express | 11 August 2018 | 1,484 times
A “suicidal” airline employee stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane, took off from Sea-Tac International Airport and was chased by military jets before crashing into a small island in the Puget Sound Friday night, officials said.
Preliminary information suggests the crash occurred because the 29-year-old employee was “doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said.
The employee was originally identified as a mechanic but Alaska Airlines later said he was a ground service agent, who is someone who helps direct aircraft to gates and de-ice planes.
Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, said on Twitter the man was suicidal and there was no connection to terrorism.
Video showed the Horizon Air Q400 doing large loops and other dangerous maneuvers as the sun set. There were no passengers aboard.
Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed on Ketron Island, southwest of Tacoma, Washington. Troyer said F-15 aircraft scrambled out of Portland, Oregon, and were in the air “within a few minutes” and the pilots kept “people on the ground safe.” They were not involved in the crash, authorities said.
The sheriff’s department said they were conducting a background investigation on the Pierce County resident, whose name was not immediately released.
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man “did something foolish and may well have paid with his life.”
The man’s condition after the crash wasn’t immediately known.
The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is “just a broken guy.”
An air traffic controller called the man “Rich,” and tried to persuade him to land the airplane.
“There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile,” the controller says, referring to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,” the man responded, later adding “This is probably jail time for life, huh?”
Later the man said: “I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. ... Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess.”
Spokesmen for the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration directed inquiries to local authorities. (VOA)
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