Stolen plane crashes near Sea-Tac International Airport; no passengers onboard

Stolen plane crashes near Sea-Tac International Airport; no passengers onboard

"Was doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island", the sheriff said on Twitter.

A USA official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press the man was Richard Russell.

"An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without permission at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound", the tweet read.

After the plane approached Ketron Island, Waldron saw a thick column of smoke followed by a loud explosion, he said.

The man who stole a Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle and flew it for almost an hour is not believed to have a pilot's license, authorities said Saturday.

A local aviation expert says the incident shows glaring gaps in airport security.

The Bombardier Q400 turboprop is designed for short-distance flights and can seat 76 passengers, Alaska Air said. There were no passengers aboard.

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

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport confirmed an airline employee stole the plane.

Authorities initially said the man was a mechanic, but Alaska Airlines later said he was believed to be a ground service agent employed by Horizon. Two military F-15s were scrambled to pursue the plane, but were not involved in the crash.

According to the mercurynews.com, witnesses reported seeing the Bombardier Q400, a turboprop aircraft, perform a loop-the-loop and almost slam into Chambers Bay, all while being pursued by fighter jets.

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Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor described the incident at a press conference as a "joyride gone terribly wrong".

Russell's heartbreaking exchange with air traffic controllers ― who called him "Rich" ― was broadcast live and could be heard online.

Through all of this, air traffic controllers and other professionals gently worked to guide "Rich" to a safe landing, directing him to nearby runways.

Scott Adams, a battalion chief with West Pierce Fire and Rescue, said about 10:30 p.m. the crash had started a grass fire, and that two fire engines, a medic unit and a command unit were at the site, along with firefighting staff from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Oh man", Rich says, "those guys will rough me up if I try and land there". He documented his feelings working at the job on his social media and said he liked to travel and was hoping to one day work in a management position at the company.

While in the air, Russell joked for almost 20 minutes with the air traffic control agent, but admitted he had "a few screws loose" and called himself "just a broken guy".

President Donald Trump was briefed and the White House praised authorities' quick response to the crisis. He is now at his New Jersey golf club. Video showed fiery flames amid trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

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

"We believe there are no passengers on board", the tweet said.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the incident. That's why the F-15s got scrambled to deal with this issue, and it seems highly likely that they would have fired on the plane if it made any aggressive moves towards airports or cities. Near the end of the video, you can also see the aftermath of the crash.

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