Plane crashes in Puget Sound after airline employee stole aircraft at Sea-Tac airport

WATCH: An airline worker stole an empty plane from a Seattle airport on Friday and crashed it into a nearby sparsely populated island, authorities say, sparking a security scare prompting U.S. fighter jets to be scrambled.

A plane has crashed after an employee carried out an “unauthorized takeoff” at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) on Friday night.

Sea-Tac airport confirmed the news in a tweet.

Alaska Airlines said on its blog that the pilot was likely a ground service agent working for Horizon Air.

WATCH: Video shows plane flying with F-15 fighter jet following, before later crashing

The plane was taken when it was “in a maintenance position” and it wasn’t scheduled to be used for passenger flight, the airline added.

It crashed about an hour after takeoff.

WATCH: Video posted to Twitter showed a plane doing a loop over Puget Sound alongside a jet on Friday night.


The plane was a Horizon Air Q400, according to Alaska Airlines.

It crashed into Ketron Island, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Federal investigators said it smashed into many pieces during the crash. But, they said they still anticipate being able to retrieve data recorders from the aircraft.

Debra Eckrote, a regional chief with the National Transportation Safety Board, says the wings are off the plane and the fuselage is upside down.

She said it was very fortunate that the plane crashed in a relatively unpopulated island.

Preliminary info from the sheriff’s office said the crash happened after a mechanic stole it, and caused the incident either by doing stunts in the air or through a lack of flying skills.

The sheriff’s department went on to say that two F-15s chased the plane but that they weren’t involved in the crash.

The F-15s were on the scene “within a few minutes” of the plane’s theft, the department said. A press release from NORAD indicated that the fighters were directed to fly supersonic, but did not fire upon the aircraft.

Videos had earlier emerged on social media that showed a plane travelling through the sky over Chambers Bay, followed by what looked like a military jet.

Leah Morse took video of the plane being trailed by jets over her house.

“I was outside watering and heard the jets, saw the plane coming, and something told me to get my phone and record,” she said.

“Felt it in my gut something was wrong.”

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department later tweeted that the pilot was a suicidal, 29-year-old male.

WATCH: Footage from the scene of a plane crash on Ketron Island in Puget Sound

It also stressed that this was not a terrorist incident.

Alaska Airlines had earlier advised of a ground stop in response to questions from travellers who said their planes had been delayed.

The ground stop was later lifted.

A ground stop requires that all planes meeting certain criteria stay on the ground.

They’re put into place when air traffic control can’t “safely accommodate additional aircraft in the system,” according to the National Business Aviation Association.

In a statement posted to YouTube, Horizon Air chief operating officer Constance von Muehlen said the company’s hearts are with the family of the person aboard.

  • With files from Reuters and the Associated Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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