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NEW YORK (CBS/AP) – A Horizon Air employee who worked on the ground stole a plane at Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SeaTac), took off unauthorized and then later crashed late Friday, SeaTac airport said. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office confirmed a suicidal male, age 29, was on board, and it was not a terrorist incident.
The plane crashed on Ketron Island in south Puget Sound outside Seattle. It’s a small island with about two dozen residents.
Two military F-15s chased the plane but they were not involved in the crash, KIRO-TV reports. The Pierce County Sheriff”s Department said the sonic boom that was reported was Air Force and not an explosion.
No other passengers were aboard the plane went it crashed.
According to the Pierce County Sheriff, preliminary information indicated a mechanic from unknown airlines stole the plane. The Pierce County Sheriff tweeted the person was “doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island.”
An air traffic controller called the man “Rich,” and tried to convince the man to land the airplane.
“There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile,” the controller says, referring to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,” the man responded, later adding “This is probably jail time for life, huh?”
Audio released between the man who stole the plane and the Broadcastify tower at SeaTac airport has been released.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it, until now,” he could be heard saying.
He late went on to say that he didn’t need that help flying the plane, because “I’ve played some video games before. I would like to figure out how to get this cabin altitude like I know where the box is. I would like to make it pressurized so I’m not so lightheaded.”
The FBI said it is “communicating with local, state, and federal partners but it is too early for us to put out details on the rapidly evolving situation.”
The plane belonged to Horizon Air, which is owned by Alaska Airlines. In a statement, Alaska Airlines said they are “aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400.” The Q400 ix a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats, according to the AP.
CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV reporter Gary Horcher tweeted that all planes at SeaTac were grounded. SeaTac said later that normal operations had resumed.
Spokesmen for the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration directed inquiries to local authorities.
Gov. Jay Inslee thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and Oregon for scrambling jets and said in a statement “there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight’s tragic incident.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)