San Francisco: A "suicidal" mechanic stole an empty passenger plane from Seattle-Tacoma airport, took it for a brief flight that included an aerial loop, then crashed it in an incident officials said was unrelated to terrorism. Two military F-15s were scrambled to chase the stolen plane, but "were not involved in the crash," local officials said.
Video taken by a bystander showed the passenger airplane making an unlikely upside-down loop, then flying low over Puget Sound before crashing into the sparsely populated Ketron Island in the northwestern US state of Washington. The crash sparked a fire in the dense forest. Flames lit up the night as they spread from the burning wreckage to nearby trees. Officials said there were no victims on the ground.
The stolen plane was a twin engine turboprop Q400 airplane belonging to its sister carrier Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines said on Twitter. It normally carries 76 passengers. "This is not a terrorist incident," Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's office wrote on Twitter.
The plane thief "is confirmed a suicidal male," Troyer wrote. "We know who he is." The suspect was identified as a 29-year-old airline mechanic and local resident who "acted alone," Troyer added, confirming that there were "no other passengers on the plane" when it crashed.
The plane was stolen at around 8 pm and crashed 90 minutes later, officials said.
The sheriff's office also said that the F-15s arrived minutes after the plane was stolen and kept the aircraft "out of harms way and people on ground safe."