Mechanic steals empty plane from Seattle's airport, crashes

Airliner takes off without authorization at Sea-Tac crashes in Puget Sound	 	 	 			A Horizon Q400 | Source Alaska Airlines

Airliner takes off without authorization at Sea-Tac crashes in Puget Sound A Horizon Q400 | Source Alaska Airlines

The sheriff's department described the man as suicidal.

"I hope this doesn't ruin your day". 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.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor described the incident as a "joyride gone terribly wrong", adding that the pilot "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life".

John Waldron told CNN: "I started to capture video, just because I thought it was, kind of freakish".

Airline and airport officials would not say during a briefing to reporters Saturday exactly when airport staff determined the plane was in the process of being stolen.

Within minutes of the plane's takeoff, the military scrambled two armed F-15 jets from OR to follow it, according to local and airline authorities and two sources with knowledge of the situation.

The married mechanic - who has not been named - crashed on Ketron Island, 30 miles south west of Seattle, at 8pm local time.

They believe there were no passengers on board and no structures hit when the plane crashed into Ketron Island on Friday night. After flying around an unpredictable path, the plane crashed at a nearby island.

But concern about the mental state of aviation workers has grown in recent years, analyst say, particularly after the 2015 crash of Germanwings 9525 flight in France, when a pilot deliberately steered his plane into a mountainside, killing 144 passengers and five crew members.

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

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".

"I thought they were practicing for an air show", he said. "Never really knew it, until now", Richard Russell said at one point.

"We are stunned and heartbroken", Richard Russell's family said in a statement read by a friend.

The FBI is looking into the 29-year-old's background and try to determine his motive, she said. He briefly turned away, then turned back and saw the explosion as the plane crashed.

The Sumner, Wash., man, whom cops identified as Richard Russell, managed several barrel rolls and loop-the-loops before plummeting to his death. "To our knowledge, he didn't have a pilot's license".

"Congratulations, you did it", the control tower tells him, according to an audio feed aired on CNN.

Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden told Saturday´s press conference that the man had worked for Horizon Air since February 2015.

The regional airline, based at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, is owned by the Alaska Air Group.

The FBI is investigating the weird incident in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board and local law enforcement.

"Governor 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".

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

Flights out of Sea-Tac, the largest commercial airport in the Pacific Northwest, were temporarily grounded during the drama.

Note: If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, please remember help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.