An apparently suicidal mechanic stole an empty passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma airport late on Friday, took it for a brief flight then crashed it.
Within minutes of the plane's takeoff, the military scrambled two F-15 jets from OR to follow it, authorities said.
Just after 10pm Pacific, Horizon parent company Alaska Airlines tweeted confirmation that "a Horizon Air Q400 that had an unauthorized takeoff from SeaTac around 8pm has gone down near Ketron Island in Pierce County, WA". An Alaska Airlines Dash 8 Q400 was stolen from its hanger at Seattle Tacoma Airport early in the evening of August 10, and plane took off without permission of tower.
There were no passengers in the plane, wrote Ed Troyer, a Public Information Officer from the Pierce County Sheriff's Office. John Waldron was walking along a trail near the bay when he noticed the two military jets following a plane that appeared to be doing acrobatics. Some unconfirmed reports on social media said he was believed to be an airline mechanic. Video showed fiery flames amidst trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.
After being contacted by F-15's, stolen plane began to nose dive, crashing in north Pierce County. "But that's what's happening at Sea-Tac Airport right now".
Alaska Airlines said no structures on the ground were damaged.
Passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which claims to be the ninth busiest USA airport took to Twitter to vent their frustration after the incident grounded all flights for up to any hour.
An air traffic controller called the man "Rich", and tried to convince the man to land the airplane.
An air traffic control operator attempted to guide the man to Joint-Base Lewis McChord: "We're just trying to find a place for you to land safely", the operator said.
Witnesses in the area posted videos to social media showing the 76-passenger plane, meant for short flights, doing risky ariel maneuvers while F-15 fighter jets scrambled behind it. He didn't hear the crash, but saw smoke.
"It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie", King said.
Flight were delayed but normal operations have since resumed at Sea-Tac Airport.