A plane has crashed near Sea-Tac airport in Seattle after being stolen by an airline worker and pursued by F-15 fighter jets. There were no passengers on board, and the incident has not been connected to terrorism.
Alaska Airlines confirmed there was an "unauthorized take-off" of a Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac airport around 9.50 p.m. Friday evening (04:50 Saturday UTC). The aircraft crashed on Ketron Island in Puget Sound. Two military F-15s were scrambled to pursue the plane, but were not involved in the crash.
The turboprop plane, a Horizon Air Q400, did not carry any passengers. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.
The 29-year-old man who stole the plane had clearance to be among aircraft but did not have a pilot's license, authorities said on Saturday. He had cleared various background checks before being allowed into secured areas, and no political or terror motive has been attached to his actions.
It was unclear how he had developed the skills to perform the loops he made with the aircraft before it crashed into the small island in the Puget Sound. The aircraft broke into many pieces in thick brush.
The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and Oregon on Twitter "for scrambling jets to keep Washingtonians safe." He added, "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."
"The sky was filled with fighter jets, you could hear it," local resident Jeff Duncan told DW. He said he thought it was some military drills from the nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the western US. Unverified video footage on social media showed a large plane flying above the Seattle area with an F-15 following it.