The FBI will lead an investigation after a Horizon Air employee stole a reportedly empty passenger plane and crashed it near Seattle Friday night, special agent in charge Jay Tabb said at a news conference in Seattle Saturday.
“We will get to the bottom of it,” Tabb said. “I have dozens of personnel out at the crash site right now. Thirty to 40 folks were involved last night, out interviewing coworkers and family members … Please be patient with the FBI. We’re not prepared today to discuss a lot of details regarding this incident.”
The FBI, National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will work together to find out how a 29-year-old ground service agent stole the plane Friday at 7:32 p.m local time and departed from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The plane crashed in a wooded area south of Seattle on Ketron Island in Puget Sound.
The FBI believes, but has not confirmed, the employee was the only one on board the plane and is the only fatality, Tabb said at the news conference.
The employee had worked for Horizon Air for three and a half years, said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air’s parent company.
The plane was not scheduled for passenger flight and was in a maintenance area when the employee boarded it. The employee had clearance to be in that secure part of the airport, Tilden said.
The employee unloaded baggage, cleaned aircraft and towed aircraft for his job but was able to do “incredible maneuvers” with the stolen plane, in the words of Alaska Airlines president Gary Beck.
“To our knowledge, he didn’t have a pilot’s license,” Beck said. (RELATED: ‘Suicidal’ Man Steals And Crashed Alaska Airlines Plane)
The employee told air traffic controllers while he was flying the plane that he was “a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess” and refused to try to land the plane at a nearby military base.
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