Authorities probe how suicidal airline employee in Seattle could steal plane

No passengers were onboard and normal operations have resumed at the airfield

Federal authorities were searching on Saturday for what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport and crashing it into a nearby sparsely populated island, sparking a security scare that saw USA fighter jets scrambled.

The Friday night crash happened because the 29-year-old man was "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills", the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said.

"I would like to apologise to each and every one of them".

While he was in the air, Russell described himself to air traffic controllers as "just a broken guy" with "a few screws loose".

He crashed the plane in a wooded area of Ketron Island, 25 miles south of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

A "suicidal" airline employee at Seattle's Sea-Tac International Airport stole an empty plane Friday night for a freaky joyride, performing unsafe air maneuvers under close pursuit by F-15 fighter jets before crashing into an island.

Ed Troyer, Public Information Officer for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department confirmed on Twitter that the pilot of the plane was a "suicidal male".

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said it was "not a terrorist incident", adding the man was local and 29.

A passenger plane from Alaska Airlines was stolen from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday at around 8 PM.

Earlier, Alaska Airlines, the parent company of Horizon Air whose plane was stolen, tweeted a statement. The Q400 is a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.

"The setup in aviation in America is we secure the airfield and then we have the mindset that we have employees that are credentialed and authorized to be there", Tilden said, adding that the airline was working with authorities to investigate.

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Beck said flying the "complex machine" would be more hard than a private plane. Eckrote said investigators would search the man's home and speak to his family and friends.

The wooded area is hard to access, and because there are no fire engines on the island, everything has to get to there via ferry, Adams said. It appeared the ground worker used a tow vehicle to rotate the plane 180 degrees on the tarmac before climbing into the cockpit, taxiing to a runway and taking off, Alaska executives said.

Fire crews were working on putting out the fire from the crash on Ketron Island in Puget Sound.

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.

"Rich" said: "I've got a lot of people that care about me".

"The responding fighter pilots flew alongside the aircraft and were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us, but in the end the man flying the stolen plane crashed", Inslee said.

He said:"I wouldn't know how to land - I wasn't really planning on landing it".

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

President Donald Trump was briefed and the White House praised authorities´ quick response to the crisis.

Alaska Air said the F-15s were scrambled from a Portland air base.

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