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 US fighter jets scrambled.
An Horizon Air ground service agent took the controls of a Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplane in a maintenance area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at about 8 pm local time Friday and took off, embarking on flight over Seattle before crashing about an one hour later on Ketron Island in Puget Sound, Horizon sister carrier Alaska Airline said online.
The 29-year-old man, who has not been identified, was suicidal and appeared to have acted alone, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter, adding the employee was probably killed in the crash.
“Doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island,” the sheriff said on Twitter.
The Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the incident, said Brad Tilden, the CEO of Alaska Air Group, in an online statement.
“We’re working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened,” he said.
There was no indication that the incident was an act of terror and no passengers were aboard the plane, the FBI said in a series of Tweets.
“The FBI continues to work with our state, local, and federal partners to gather a complete picture of what transpired with tonight’s unauthorised Horizon aircraft takeoff and crash,” the agency said.
It is unclear how the employee was able to taxi the plane on a runway and take off without authorisation. An Alaska Air spokesman said he did not have information about how the incident occurred.