'Suicidal' mechanic steals, crashes empty plane from Seattle airport

Aug 12, 2018, 08:21 IST | Agencies

Witnesses say the plane did a complete loop after taking off from Seattle airport

'Suicidal' mechanic steals, crashes empty plane from Seattle airport
Military jets scrambled to chase the stolen plane (in circle). Pics/AFP

A "suicidal" mechanic stole an empty passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma airport, took it for a brief flight that included an aerial loop, then crashed it and died in an incident officials said was unrelated to terrorism.

Two military F-15s were scrambled to chase the stolen plane, but "were not involved in the crash," local officials said. Video taken by a bystander yesterday showed the passenger airplane making an unlikely upside-down loop, then flying low over Puget Sound before crashing into the sparsely populated Ketron Island in the northwestern US state of Washington.

Military jets

The crash sparked a fire in the dense forest. Flames lit up the night as they spread from the burning wreckage to nearby trees. Officials said there were no victims on the ground.

The stolen plane was a twin engine turboprop Q400 airplane belonging to its sister carrier Horizon Air. "This is not a terrorist incident," Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's office said. The suspect was identified as a 29-year-old airline mechanic and local resident who "acted alone," Troyer added, confirming that there were "no passengers on the plane" when it crashed.

Why did he steal the plane?
In audio recordings of the incident, the man can be heard talking to air traffic controllers as they try to guide him to land the plane. At one point, he apologises and says he is a "broken guy" with "a few screws loose." Officials described the man as suicidal. It did not elaborate.

The F-15 chase
Within minutes of the plane's takeoff, the military scrambled two F-15 jets from Oregon to follow it, authorities said. They pursued the aircraft before it went down on Ketron Island, between Tacoma and Olympia.

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