'Suicidal' man steals and crashes empty plane from Seattle airport

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A 29-year-old Horizon employee stole an empty plane from Sea-Tac Airport Friday night.

An airline employee has stolen and crashed a passenger plane in Seattle.

The sheriff's department said "preliminary" information was that the plane's pilot was "a mechanic from unknown airlines" who "was doing stunts in air" or lacked flying skills.

The stolen plane was a twin engine turboprop Q400 airplane belonging to its sister carrier Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines said on Twitter.

The incident was not considered terrorism, according to Ed Troyer, a sheriff's spokesman.

Alaska Airlines confirmed the incident - "there was an "unauthorized take-off" of an airplane and witnesses reported a jet being chased by military planes near Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state". "But then I was like woah, that's way too low", he said.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department said two F-15 military jets chased the plane, but were not involved in the crash. No passengers appeared to be aboard the 76-seat plane.

Military fighter jets were scrambled and followed the plane which then crashed near Ketron Island, south west of Tacoma, Washington.

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Horizon Air COO Constance von Muehlen said in a late-night video message "our hearts are with the family of the individual onboard as well as all our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees".

Air traffic controllers attempted to talk the man into landing at McChord field - but he refused.

A plane flies past a control tower at Sea-Tac International Airport Friday evening, August 10, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. "I was kind of hoping that was gonna be it".

Live air traffic control audio captured the heartbreaking conversation between the man inside the plane and ATC, according to the Seattle Times.

Black smoke was spotted pouring from the crash site. Officials said there were no victims on the ground. There is no word about the recovery of the man inside the crashed plane. The plane, which was taken from a maintenance position and was not scheduled for passenger flight, crashed about an hour later in a wooded area on Ketron Island in rural Pierce County. Although details remain scant at this time, operations at SeaTac were temporarily shut down and two Air National Guard F-15Cs, call sign Rock 41 and 42, from the 142 Fighter Wing in Portland, Oregon, were scrambled to intercept the Q400.

Witness footage shows the plane's erratic flight prior to the crash.

There was no indication that the incident was an act of terror, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said on Twitter.

PCSO also said in a tweet that AIr Force F-15s responded to the scene and tried to keep the plane from crashing into an area that would hurt citizens.