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 on Friday night, officials said.
The airport says normal operations at Sea-Tac have resumed.
Officials with Alaska Airlines confirmed the plane as a Bombardier Q400 that belongs to Horizon Air.
Two military F-15s chased the plane but were not involved in the crash, according to the Pierce County (Washington) Sheriff's department. "The responding fighter pilots flew alongside the aircraft and were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us, but in the end the man flying the stolen plane crashed on Ketron Island".
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 plane was a Horizon Air Q400, according to a statement from Horizon's partner airline Alaska Airlines. There appear to have been no passengers on the 76-seat plane.
The plane was allegedly "flying around Puget Sound", before later reports indicated there was a "large smoke plume" at Ketron Island. The Pierce County Sheriff's Department and the Coast Guard dispatched rescue vessels to the scene.
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"Congratulations, you did that, now let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground", an air traffic controller said. "The FAA is not a security agency, although we work closely with other government agencies on security issues".
A Horizon Air airplane was stolen from SeaTac Airport on August 10, 2018 and crashed on Ketron Island where it sparked a fire.
Witnesses at the airport, posting on social media, said they were told that someone had stolen an aircraft.
The sheriff's office confirmed that F-15 fighter jets were scrambled to keep the plane out of harm's way and "people on the ground safe".
Then the passenger plane pilot "did a complete loop ..."
"We can see evidence of fire on the hillside here on this island", he said in a reporter standup. Preliminary info is that a mechanic from unknown airlines stole plane. Authorities say that this is not an incident of terrorism.
This story is developing.