'Suicidal' mechanic stole empty plane then crashed into island after F15 chase

Mae Love
August 12, 2018

The man who stole the plane has been identified as a 29-year-old Washington resident. "If you're going to access the aircraft ... you make sure that you check with someone else, and that someone else (will confirm) that ... you have the right authority to get onto that aircraft".

The plane crashed into a small island in the Puget Sound some time after 8 p.m. local time, according to authorities. "I would like to apologise to each and every one of them", he said.

Harrowing audio revealed the pilot joking with the controllers who begged him to land the 76-seater plane before it nosedived and burst into a fireball 25 miles away.

No passengers were onboard and normal operations have resumed at the airfield, the airport said on Twitter. They took care to point out that the crash was not an act of terrorism.

The FBI is leading investigations into the incident and special agent Jay Tabb said there are dozens of people at the crash site working to find answers.

It wasn't immediately clear what training, if any, the man had in flying planes. Southers is director of homegrown violent extremism studies at the University of Southern California.

Video shows him doing large loops and other unsafe maneuvers.

It is unclear how the employee was able to taxi the plane on a runway and take off without authorisation.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday morning that President Donald Trump is "monitoring the situation". He's now at his New Jersey golf club. He's now at his New Jersey golf club. His identity is known but has not been released. Unlike cars, there are no keys needed for the door or to turn on the plane, he said.

Federal authorities on Saturday were seeking to learn what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport in a security scare that caused the scrambling of USA fighter jets and ended when the plane crashed onto a sparsely populated island.

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Law enforcement sources confirmed to both The Seattle Times and The New York Times that Russell, who handled baggage and towed aircraft for Horizon Air, was the pilot. He told air traffic controllers that, "Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there". "I'm a broken guy who had a few screws loose".

The sheriff said earlier that the man was a airline mechanic, but the airline said the employee was a ground service agent.

The Alaska Airlines plane was stolen without any passengers on board and took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state on Friday night before crashing near Ketron Island.

Videos posted on social media show fighter jets tracking the stolen aircraft.

The F-15 jets chased after the plane, but weren't involved in the crash, the sheriff's office said.

The man could reportedly be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is "just a broken guy".

As federal agencies investigate, state and airline officials responded to the unusual and tragic event with sympathy and thanks. He was also reportedly followed by an F-15 fighter jet. There were reportedly no passengers on the plane.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life", according to the AP. Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said a 45-foot vessel was headed to the scene.

Officials with Alaska Airlines confirmed the plane as a Bombardier Q400 that belongs to Horizon Air.

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