An airport mechanic allegedly hijacked a plane at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night right before it crashed into the Puget Sound in Washington.
The man, who was called Rich by air traffic control personnel, is an Alaska Air Horizon employee who allegedly stole a Horizon Air Q400, shutting down the airport temporarily.
In a statement released on Twitter, Sea-Tac Airport confirmed the reports of an “unauthorized takeoff.”
“An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without permission at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound,” the tweet read. “Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Alaska Airlines said, “We are aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400. We believe there are no passengers on board. More information as we learn more.”
It is unclear if Rich survived the crash.
Pierce County Sheriff said the hijacking was not a “terrorist incident”.
“Male is confirmed a suicidal male. Acted alone he is 29-year-old Pierce county residence [sic],” the department tweeted.
The air drama was broadcast live over air traffic control monitoring sites.
During the radio exchange, an air traffic control personnel by the name of Captain Bill attempted to steer Rich away from flying over the airport in order to avoid a collision that would risk the lives of multiple people.
“I feel like one of my engines has gone out,” Rich told the captain as he flew the empty plane.
Rich then offered to do a barrel roll, however, Bill, whose last name was not immediately available, told him that was not advisable.
Instead, Bill told him to fly over the water in order to avoid hitting people.
“Well done, now let’s get you on the ground so you don’t hurt anyone,” Bill told Rich as the mechanic followed his instructions.
Despite Bill’s attempts to get Rich and the plane on the ground, the airline employee refused.
“I don’t know man,” Rich said. “I don’t wanna, I don’t know.”
Rich seemed more positive about landing at another point in their conversation
“Hey, do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?” he joked.
He continued, speaking about his actions to Bill.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” Rich said. “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.”
As Rich flew over the water, two F-15 fighter jets were dispatched to intercept the plane. Two military F-15 chased plane but was not involved in the crash, the sheriff’s department tweeted.
The plane was seen by a number of witnesses doing stunts before crashing. People who witnessed the incident shared videos on Twitter.
One user tweeted, “Some dude stole a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), did a loop-the-loop, ALMOST crashed into #ChambersBay, then crossed in front of our party, chased by fighter jets and subsequently crashed. Weird times.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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