Horizon Air worker accused of stealing, crashing plane had Alaska ties

Alaska Airlines has confirmed an'unauthorised take-off in Seattle

Air traffic controllers tried to encourage the man to land before the plane crashed, a recording being shared online reveals.

The fighter planes intercepted the Q400 turboprop near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, NORAD said.

"Oh man", Rich says, "those guys will rough me up if I try and land there". "I would like to apologize to each and every one one of them".

"Just a broke guy, got a few screws loose I guess".

The plane was trailed by F15 fighter jets, and it eventually crashed on sparsely populated Ketron Island in Puget Sound.

Two military F-15s were scrambled to chase the stolen plane, but officials said the jets were not involved in the crash.

The sheriff´s office said the F-15s arrived minutes after the plane was stolen and kept the aircraft "out of harm´s way and people on the ground safe".

Federal Bureau of Investigation said it does not consider the incident terror-related as authorities try to piece together how a security scare of that magnitude occurred at major airport.

He used a vehicle known as a pushback tractor to move the empty 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop plane and took off without authorization at 7:32 p.m. local time Friday, officials said.

The plane was a Horizon Air Q400, according to a statement from Horizon's partner airline Alaska Airlines.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life". They said the incident had come as a complete shock.

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"It is highly fragmented", she said of the plane.

Wonder what happened inside the stolen Horizon Air Q400 airplane in Washington state?

At a news conference in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said that they are still working closely with authorities as they investigate what happened.

It is believed that he was a mechanic who took the plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Russell, 29, a local ground service agent who assisted baggage handlers, has been identified by media as the man who operated the unauthorized flight on August 10. "Well I would hope it would be for a guy like me".

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

Sea-Tac officials said the airline employee had "conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers".

The family of an airline employee who stole a passenger plane before crashing it in Seattle has made a statement to USA media, describing Richard "Bebo" Russell as a "kind and gentle" man.

"Safety is our number one goal", Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said.

Gov. Jay Inslee thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling jets and said in a statement "there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident". Investigators headed on Saturday to the crash site to recover the plane's data recorders and Russell's remains as part of a criminal probe, authorities said. Near the end of the video, you can also see the aftermath of the crash.

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