Unauthorised take-off of plane near Seattle

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An airline employee stole an airplane at Seattle airport today and was chased by two military jets before crashing on a nearby island.

A "suicidal" mechanic stole an empty passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma airport late Friday, took it for a brief flight then crashed it in an incident officials said was unrelated to terrorism.

"We've confirmed a Horizon Air Q400 that had an unauthorized takeoff from SeaTac around 8 pm has gone down near Ketron Island in Pierce County, WA".

"He said the man, a Pierce County resident, was acting alone". Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor estimated that about 12 people live on the island.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement, thanking Air National Guard from Washington and OR for their quick response, and saying, "There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident of a stolen Horizon Airline plane from Sea-Tac Airport".

Witnesses reported seeing a plane circling around the Seattle area and that it was later followed by fighter jets.

"Pilots kept plane out of harm's way and people on ground safe", the sheriff said on Twitter. "Ah damn it, I don't know, man".

Flights were grounded with some passengers tweeting that their plane stopped abruptly on the runway.

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The employee appeared to be in distress as he spoke to air traffic control while flying the stolen plane, according to a tower broadcast of the conversation.

Normal operations at the airport were interrupted for a time by the unauthorized takeoff but have resumed, the airport said in its tweet. "We are working back ground on him now".

Released radio conversation between the man and air traffic controllers goes on for more than a half hour. I don't know! I don't want to. It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. He said he didn't see the crash but saw smoke. 'The smoke lingered. You could still hear the F-15s, which were flying low'.

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