Plane Crashes Outside Seattle After Airline Employee’s ‘Unauthorized Takeoff’

Elaine ThompsonAP Images

On Friday around 8 p.m. EST, an Alaska Airlines plane crashed outside of Seattle on Ketron Island, Washington, in what Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) is calling an “unauthorized takeoff,” as People reported. The airplane was a Horizon Air Q400 and can hold up to 75 passengers, but in a statement to People, Alaska Airline said that they believe there were no passengers on the plane. Sea-Tac Airport released a statement on Twitter.

“An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without permission at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed is South Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.”

As ABC News reported, the FBI released a statement.

“The FBI is communicating with local, state, and federal partners but is too early for us to put out details on the rapidly evolving situation. We frequently get involved with matters related to aircraft so we are poised to act if information develops to suggest a federal criminal nexus”

The Alaska Air Horizon employee who allegedly stole the plane was referred to as Rich by air traffic control personnel, and he is reportedly a Pierce County resident. Pierce County Sheriff tweeted that he is a mechanic and was doing stunts in the air before he crashed into the island. Pierce County Sheriff also tweeted that this is not a terrorist incident and that this was a 29-year-old suicidal male, as People documented. Sheriff Paul Pastor said that most terrorists don’t do loops over the water and that this might have been a joyride that went terribly wrong, as ABC News documented.

Rich told an air traffic control employee, Captain Bill (last name unknown), that one of his engines went out. The 29-year-old suggested doing a barrel roll, but Captain Bill urged him not to do so and to fly over the water, so that he doesn’t hurt any anyone. Rich followed the captain’s instructions, and as People reported, Bill told the mechanic, “Well done, now let’s get you on the ground so you don’t hurt anyone.”

Though Bill urged Rich to land the plane on the ground, the mechanic refused, as People documented.

“I don’t know man. I don’t wanna, I don’t know.”

Journalist Jimmy Thomson posted several tweets of the radio exchange between Rich and Captain Bill. One Tweet revealed the audio of a powerful statement from the mechanic.

Other audio clips tragically revealed that Rich was not planning on landing the plane.

Two F-15 fighter jets were dispatched to intercept the plane outside Seattle, but they were not involved in the crash. As of the time of this report, it’s unclear if Rich survived.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit