Sunday 16 December 2018

Airline employee 'steals plane from major US airport and crashes into island'

Planes sit on the tarmac at Sea-Tac International Airport after service was halted after an Alaska Airlines plane was stolen (Bettina Hansen /The Seattle Times via AP)
Planes sit on the tarmac at Sea-Tac International Airport after service was halted after an Alaska Airlines plane was stolen (Bettina Hansen /The Seattle Times via AP)
A Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, reported to be hijacked, flies over Fircrest, Washington, the U.S., before crashing in the South Puget Sound Leah Morse/via REUTERS
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor talks on his phone at a staging area (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Law enforcement vehicles are shown, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, at the ferry terminal in Steilacoom, Wash (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Alaska Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Sea-Tac International Airport Friday evening (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Law enforcement officials stand at a staging area at the ferry terminal in Steilacoom, Washington (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, reported to be hijacked, flies over Fircrest, Washington, the U.S., before crashing in the South Puget Sound Leah Morse/via REUTERS
Air Alaska passengers wait at the customer service desk, following an incident where an airline employee took off in an airplane, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Air Alaska passengers wait in the terminal following an incident where an airline employee took off in an airplane, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

An airline mechanic stole a plane from a major US airport before crashing it into an island, officials said.

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.

Preliminary information suggested that the 29-year-old mechanic stole the Horizon Air Q400 and the crash occurred because the person was "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills," the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said on Twitter.

The plane was chased by military aircraft, witnesses said.

Airport officials said the airline employee had "conducted an unauthorised takeoff without passengers".

Alaska Airlines said in a Tweet: "We've confirmed a Horizon Air Q400 that had an unauthorized takeoff from SeaTac around 8pm has gone down near Ketron Island in Pierce County, WA.

"We're working to confirm who was on board, we believe there were no guests or crew on board other than the person operating the plane."

The US Coast Guard was sending a 45ft vessel to the crash scene after witnesses reported seeing a large plume of smoke in the air, Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said.

Pierce County Sheriff Public Information Officer Ed Troyer has said that officials believe the man who stole the plane is suffering from mental health issues.

He said in a statement on Twitter: "This is not a terrorist incident. Confirmed information .. this is a single suicide male. We know who he is. No others involved.

"(He) Acted alone, he is a 29 year old Pierce County resident."

Mr Troyer said that he is working with FBI and military personnel as they investigate what happened.

The sheriff's department said they were working to conduct a background investigation on the man, whose name was not immediately released.

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

Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the US West.

The Q400 ix a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.

More to follow...

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