A airline ground service agent, who stole an empty Alaska Airlines plane, has crashed near a small island close to Tacoma, Washington.
The aftermath of the extraordinary aeroplane crash shows the burning wreckage scattered amidst a fiery forest at night.
The alarming episode unfolded last night when an employee from Horizon Air stole the plane from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Two military fighters jets were immediately scrambled and pursued the rogue pilot for an hour before the plane crashed in a wooded area 40 miles away.
The unidentified 29-year-old ground service agent was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.
Although the identity of the man is not known, authorities have confirmed that he was in charge of directing aircraft for takeoff, gate approach and de-icing planes.
Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, tweeted that the man was «suicidal» and there was no connection to terrorism.
The man could be heard telling air traffic controllers that he was «just a broken guy» but was also heard joking about becoming a pilot if he landed safely.
My husband and I are recently former Boeing employees and we were wondering why a jet was near the passenger airplane
The air traffic controller, who called the man ‘Rich,’ tried to convince the man to land the airplane.
The controller said: «There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile.»
The rogue pilot replied: «Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there. This is probably jail time for life, huh?
«I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this.
«Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess.»
Constance von Muehlen, the airline’s chief operating officer, said: «Our hearts are with the families of the individual aboard as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees.»
John Waldron, who spotted the rogue plane and the two F-15 jets, thought «they were practicing for an air show».
Another witness, Kethleen Reichel, added: «My husband and I are recently former Boeing employees and we were wondering why a jet was near the passenger airplane.»
The airport said that normal operations at the airport were interrupted briefly but have since resumed.
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