Horizon Air Employee Steals Aircraft, Does Aerobatics before Nosing into Ketron Island in Blazing Fatal Crash

Stolen Horizon Air Q400 in flight. Video screengrab
Stolen Horizon Air Q400 in flight. Video screengrab

Authorities in Seattle reported that a man thought to be suicidal stole a Horizon Air aircraft from the SeaTac Airport at approximately 8 pm and took off, performed aerobatic maneuvers with the passenger aircraft before intentionally crashing the aircraft on Ketron Island in south Puget Sound on Friday evening.

The man, reported to be a ground service worker for Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Air, took the empty Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 turboprop, that normally holds 76 passengers but was devoid of passengers at the time, and took to the skies over Puget Sound.

Two jets were scrambled from Oregon and traveling supersonic, were there in minutes. The two F-15 fighter jets, launched by North American Aerospace Defense Command, shadowed the aircraft as ground control attempted to talk the man down.

Air Traffic Control spoke with the employee as he was in the air, referring to him as “Rich,” trying to talk him into bringing the craft down at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, to which the man said, “Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,” adding, “This is probably jail time for life, huh?” The man told the controller, that he was  “Just a broken guy” with “a few screws loose.”

Instead of landing the aircraft, the 29-year-old employee performed aerobatics with the plane even flying it upside down and doing loops during the hour-long flight before intentionally crashing it on Ketron Island, an island with approximately 20 year-round residents in south Puget Sound.

Traffic at SeaTac was briefly halted as the scenario played out.

Authorities have deemed the incident a non-terrorist event and the FBI has taken over the investigation.

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