'Suicidal' mechanic steals plane from Seattle airport and crashes

SEATAC, Wash. (AP) - A "suicidal" airline mechanic stole an empty Alaska Airlines plane and took off from Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state before crashing near a small island Friday night, officials said.

President Donald Trump has been briefed on the situation. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Saturday morning Trump is monitoring the situation. She commended the response effort for its "swift action" and public safety protection.

Officials say an airline employee stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane and took off from the airport Friday night. Video shows him doing large loops and other dangerous maneuvers. He was chased by military jets before crashing into an island in the Puget Sound. His identity and condition are unknown.

A sheriff's department spokesman said the man may have been suicidal but there was no terrorism connection.

Preliminary information suggests that the 29-year-old mechanic stole the Horizon Air Q400 and the crash occurred because the person was "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills," the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said.

Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed near Ketron Island, southwest of Tacoma, Washington. There were no passengers aboard.

Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, said on Twitter that the man was suicidal and there was no connection to terrorism.

The sheriff's department said they were working to conduct a background investigation on the man, whose name was not immediately released.

The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is "just a broken guy."

The U.S. Coast Guard was sending a 45-foot (14-meter) vessel to the crash scene after witnesses reported seeing a large plume of smoke in the air, Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said.

Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the U.S. West. The Q400 ix a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.

Spokesmen for the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration directed inquiries to local authorities.

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