This Friday night, August 10, an empty Horizon Airlines plane crashed after it was stolen by a ground employee from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 8pm local time. After being chased by two F-15 military jets, the 76-seat plane crashed in a wooded area 40 miles away, according to CNN.
What sounds kind of like it should be a feature of an action movie quickly turns into a tragedy when you start digging under the surface. The 29-year-old ground mechanic has been identified by authorities, but his name hasn’t been released.
As soon as the events started happening, folks started listening in on Broadcastify, a website dedicated to sharing live audio streams of scanner radio communications. In this case, that meant Sea-Tac’s radio control tower as air traffic controllers tried to guide the man to land the plane safely. You can check out snippets in this Twitter thread, but please listen at your own discretion. The content is potentially triggering.
Local Sheriff Paul Pastor has stated that this wasn’t a terrorist incident; it was, instead, the actions of a suicidal man. The audio clips from Broadcastify testify to that.
All told, the plane was in the air for a little over an hour. The sheriff’s spokesman, Ed Troyer, was unsure if the renegade pilot was doing stunts in the plane or simply didn’t know how to fly the plane. He did, however, know how to take off and was able to follow instructions from air traffic control. He stated that he had no intentions of trying to land the plane.
F-15 jets were deployed with the intention of keeping the ground agent away from populated areas. They didn’t fire on the subject.
After quickly burning through fuel, the plane crashed at Ketron Island, a nearby wooded area. The ground agent is confirmed dead. There were no reports of ground fatalities or damage to buildings.
The Sea-Tac airport briefly closed during the incident, with normal operations resuming at 9:30 PM local time. Witnesses to the incident assumed it was just a stunt show until the plane crashed.
Brad Tilden, Alaska Air Group CEO, has released a statement after the incident:
“We are still gathering facts, but at this point we understand there was only one person aboard, an employee of Horizon Air, who was operating the aircraft. I want to share how incredibly sad all of us at Alaska are about this incident. Our heart is heavy for the family and friends of the person involved.
“We’re working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened, working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board. We are giving those investigators our full support and cooperation. With these investigations underway, our focus will remain on supporting the family of the individual involved, the broader Alaska and Horizon family, and our communities and guests.”
Editor’s Note: The U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is online 24/7 to help you in a time of depression or desperation. Please don’t hesitate to utilize this resource.