An airline employee took off in a stolen plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night in an episode that frustrated stranded travelers, riveted witnesses and ended with the plane crashing about 30 miles from the airport, the authorities said.
The man, a 29-year-old who acted alone, was thought to be suicidal, said officials in Pierce County, where the plane crashed. No one else was believed to be on the 76-seat plane or injured on the ground.
“An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac,” the airport said in a tweet. “Aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.”
Alaska Airlines said in a statement that it believed that the person who took the plane was a ground service agent employed by Horizon Air, a subsidiary. The takeoff occurred around 8 p.m. and involved a turboprop, a Q400, flying for Horizon. The flight appeared to last just under an hour.
The stolen plane crashed on Ketron Island, southwest of the airport, and a local television station showed a wooded area in flames that it called a debris field.
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