Horizon Air worker accused of stealing, crashing plane had Alaska ties

A

It crashed near Ketron Island in Pierce County, the airline tweeted, adding that "we believe" nobody besides the man was on board.

It's unclear how he attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft before crashing about an hour after taking off into a small island in the Puget Sound, authorities said.

Kethleen Reichel said she watched the planes pass by for about two minutes.

Toward midnight on Friday, the investigation was handed off to the FBI, which was working with the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies, the Seattle Times reported.

Tilden said the system in place is to credential and secure employees and air fields, but not planes.

"In this season of life, we enjoy exploring as much as possible, whether its a day (or so) trip to one of Alaska Airline's destinations or visiting a new area of Washington", he wrote.

Mike Mathews, a friend of Russell, said at a press conference the incident came as a "complete shock". We know who he is.

The FBI's special agent in charge of the Seattle office, Jay S. Tabb, said up to 40 FBI agents were working the case overnight.

One colleague said, "People did not see him as a threat".

Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told the Bellingham Herald that information was preliminary regarding the developing incident.

A plane flies past a control tower at Sea-Tac International Airport Friday in Washington. There were no passengers aboard.

Airline and airport officials would not say during a briefing to reporters Saturday exactly when airport staff determined the plane was in the process of being stolen.

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Stolen plane crashes near Sea-Tac International Airport; no passengers onboard
After the plane approached Ketron Island, Waldron saw a thick column of smoke followed by a loud explosion, he said. Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor described the incident at a press conference as a "joyride gone terribly wrong".

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Richard Bloom, an aviation security expert at Arizona's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said he wasn't aware of another incident in which a ground crew member managed to heist an airplane.

"To my knowledge, he didn't have a pilot's license", said Horizon CEO Gary Beck. They pursued the aircraft before it went down on Ketron Island, between Tacoma and Olympia.

While authorities did not release the man's name, they say the man was suicidal, and officials said Friday night the man is likely dead.

The aircraft was stolen about 8 p.m. Alaska Airlines said it was in a "maintenance position" and not scheduled for a passenger flight.

The US fighter jets chased the planes to divert the Horizon Air Q400 from the crowded area after the airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers. Ultimately, the man crash landed the hijacked Horizon Air Q400 plane after being coaxed by air traffic controllers, but audio and witness accounts paint a disturbing scene. Got a few screws loose, I guess.

An airline mechanic stole an airplane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday (Aug 10) and was chased by two U.S. military jets before crashing on a nearby sparsely populated island, the local sheriff said.

"Oh man", Russell says, "Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there. It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this", Rich said.

At one point, he said: "Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?"

As of now, no other people have been reported hurt, and the airport has resumed normal operations.

The crash sparked a fire in the dense forest.

During the conversation, Russell said he had put some fuel in the plane "to go check out the Olympics" - the Olympic Mountains that lie about 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.

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