It was a strange scene in Seattle on Friday evening. Events included a commercial airliner being stolen by a Horizon Air baggage handler, the man joking with air traffic control, and F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jets being deployed.
The crazy series of events came to an abrupt end when the stolen plane crashed into a ball of fire on a remote Washington island.
The suspect, currently only identified as “Rich” is described as a 29 year old married airport worker who was likely suicidal when he stole the plane.
According to a report by the Daily Mail:
The 29-year-old took off in the 76-seater Horizon Air turboprop Q400 about 8pm after he took it from a maintenance area.
At one point, Rich asked air traffic controllers: ‘Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?’
The air traffic controller, trying to keep him on side, replied ‘you know, I think they would give you a job doing anything if you could pull this off’, to which Rich replied: ‘Yeah right! Nah, I’m a white guy.’
Two F-15 fighter jets scrambled from Portland ‘minutes’ after the plane took off to intercept it, according to Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.
Witnesses described seeing the aircraft performing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops as the military planes directed it away from highly-populated areas and towards Ketron Island, where it crashed into a ball of flame.
While still in the air, the pilot was heard telling traffic controllers he was ‘just a broken guy’ before telling them he was preparing for ‘jail time for life’.
Rich kept the conversation with air traffic controllers light, and at times humorous:
‘There is the runway just off your right side in about a mile, do you see that?’ the traffic controller said.
‘Oh those guys will try to rough me up if I try land there…,’ Rich replied. ‘I think I might mess something up there too. I wouldn’t want to do that. Oh they probably have got anti-aircraft.’
‘They don’t have any of that stuff, we are just trying to find you a place to land safely.’
‘Yeah, not quite ready to bring it down just yet, but holy smokes I need to stop looking at the fuel ‘cos it’s going down quick.’
‘OK, Rich, if you could, could you start a left-hand turn and we’ll take you down to the south-east.’
‘This is probably jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me. 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,’ Rich continued.
Air traffic control: Right now he’s just flying around, and he just needs some help controlling the aircraft.
Rich: Nah I mean, I don’t need that much help. I’ve played some video games before. I would like to figure out how to get this… make it pressurized or something so I’m not lightheaded.
Rich: Damnit Andrew, people’s lives are at stake here.
Air traffic control: Ah Rich, don’t say stuff like that.
Rich: I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want you to whisper sweet nothings into my ear.
Rich: Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?
Air traffic control: You know, I think they would give you a job doing anything if you could pull this off.
Rich: Yeah right! Nah, I’m a white guy
Rich: I’m gonna land it, in a safe kind of manner. I think I’m gonna try to do a barrel roll, and if that goes good, I’m just gonna nose down and call it a night.
Air traffic control: Well Rich, before you do that, let’s think about this. I’ve got another pilot coming up, pilot Joel, in just a minute here I hope. And we’ll be able to give you some advice on what to do next.
Rich: I feel like one of my engines is going out or something.
Air traffic control: OK Rich, if you could, you just want to keep that plane right over the water. Maybe keep the aircraft nice and low.
Air traffic control: OK, and you can see all the terrain around you, you’ve got no issue with visibility or anything?
Rich: Naw, everything’s peachy, peachy clean. Just did a little circle around Rainer, it’s beautiful. I think I’ve got some gas to go check out the Olympics (mountains).
Shortly thereafter, the plane crashed in a ball of fire on Ketron Island, Washington, which is very sparsely populated. No one other than Rich was injured in the crash.
Many people captured amateur video and photos of the plane, such as this one, which has been viewed over 4 million times on Twitter:
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. pic.twitter.com/Ra4LcIhwfU
— bmbdgty (@drbmbdgty) August 11, 2018
Here is a CBS report with more video footage of the aircraft: