On Friday night, a Horizon Air employee stole one of the company’s planes at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and took off in a frenzy that left numerous travellers stranded.
After a series of dives and loops with the Bombardier Q400, the employee crashed the plane 30 miles away from the airport on Ketron Island, authorities said.
No one was believed to be on the 76-seat plane, and no one was injured on the ground either. The 29-year-old man presumably acted alone and was thought to be suicidal, said officials in Pierce County, where the plane crashed.
The ground service agent died following the crash.
Some dude stole a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), did a loop-the-loop, ALMOST crashed into #ChambersBay, then crossed in front of our party, chased by fighter jets and subsequently crashed. Weird times. pic.twitter.com/Ra4LcIhwfU
— bmbdgty (@drbmbdgty) August 11, 2018
There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident of a stolen Horizon Airline plane. The responding fighter pilots flew alongside the aircraft and were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us, but in the end the man flying the stolen plane crashed.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) August 11, 2018
Witnesses to the episode included Ben Schaechter, who saw the stolen airplane take off.
“Okay this insane,” he tweeted. “A pilot on the plane in front of us just went rogue and took off on an empty plane bypassing orders from the tower. The tower ordered a full stop and they’re trying to communicate with that pilot. Whaaaaaat!”
Halfway down the runway on Alaska airlines out of Seattle and the pilot slams on the brakes and shares we must go back to the gate. Quite a scary experience. Not entirely sure what’s happening. Someone sneak on board?
— Ben Schaechter (@Bensign) August 11, 2018
Other observers detailed the plane’s course on Twitter and Facebook, with one of them assuming it was practice for an air show.
Officials attempted to offer guidance to the man flying the plane as it was still in the air.
— Cameron Thomsen (@CameronThomsen) August 11, 2018
The employee spoke with officials in a frenzied mental state. He remarked that the Olympic Mountains were beautiful and expressed surprise when he saw the plane’s gas tank rapidly depleting. He said he hoped to have a “moment of serenity” in the air but complained that the views “went by so fast.”
He also considered doing a barrel roll with the plane, and wondered out loud if it could do a back flip.
“I got a lot of people that care about me and it’s gonna disappoint them to hear that I did this,” the man could be heard saying. “I would like to apologise to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it until now.”
An airport official urged him to land the plane, to which the employee replied: “I don’t know man,” he said. “I don’t know. I don’t want to. I was kind of hoping that was gonna be it.”
The employee flew the turboprop plane for an hour with military jets chasing him, before crashing and dying.