Alaska Air Horizon plane crashes after being stolen by airline employee

An Horizon Air employee hijacked one of his airline’s aircraft from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Friday evening before crashing in south Puget Sound.

The unauthorized flight took off around 8 p.m., Horizon parent company Alaska Air Group Inc. said.

No passengers were on board and there were no reports of injuries on the ground.  the employee died during the crash.

Flights were temporarily grounded at Sea-Tac Airport, but later resumed normal operations.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office on Twitter called the hijacker “a suicidal male,” saying it was not a terrorist incident.

The unidentified employee was a 29-year-old Pierce County resident, the sheriff’s office said. Pierce County is working with the FBI and the military on the investigation.

“Our hearts are with the family of the individual aboard, as well as all our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees,” Horizon Chief Operating Officer Constance von Muehlen said in a video posted to YouTube.

Alaska spokeswoman Bobbie Egan declined to answer questions about how the Horizon plane was commandeered before it took off.

Two F-15 fighter jets that took off from Portland to follow the aircraft were “not involved in (the) crash,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office tweeted Friday.

The Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 crashed into Ketron Island south of Tacoma, the sheriff’s office said.

“Preliminary info is that a mechanic from unknown airlines stole plane. Was doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills (that) caused crash into Island,” the sheriff’s office said.

The Q400 is a 76-seat turboprop plane. Alaska Air has 45 Q400s in its fleet.

Alaska identified the aircraft as tail No. N449QX, a 2012-built aircraft that arrived in Seattle from Victoria, British Columbia, at 1:35 Friday afternoon, according to flight tracking websites.

Details of the incident are still unfolding. This story will be updated as more information is available.

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