The hijacker has been described as a 29-year-old mechanic who worked for an "unknown airline". He is reported to be a Pierce County resident.
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said: "This man did something foolish and may well have paid with his life".
The aircraft was stolen about 8 p.m. Alaska Airlines said it was in a "maintenance position" and not scheduled for a passenger flight.
"FAA air traffic controllers communicated with the individual who was flying the aircraft to try to help him land safely".
Beck marvelled at the amateur piloting. "Can this thing do a black flip thing?".
Ground control advises him to wait. I was thinking, like, I'm going to have this moment of serenity, take in all the sights.
He went through various background checks to get clearance to be in the secured area, authorities said. "So many bags", he said. He expected "a whole slew of engines that will be coming through at the ferry terminal in a few minutes". It appeared the ground worker used a tow vehicle to rotate the plane 180 degrees on the tarmac before climbing into the cockpit, taxiing to a runway and taking off, Alaska executives said.
"We've confirmed a Horizon Air Q400 that had an unauthorized takeoff from SeaTac around 8pm has gone down near Ketron Island in Pierce County, WA", the USA airline tweeted.
"In this season of life, we enjoy exploring as much as possible, whether its a day (or so) trip to one of Alaska Airline's destinations or visiting a new area of Washington", he wrote.
Fire crews and boats are responding to the scene. The crash sparked a 2-acre wildfire.
"It just hurts to hear someone you know, and just hear the pain in their voice", Kaelin said. "Witnesses said a. plane is going down. We are sending resources and people".
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The incident, which the FBI's Seattle office said was not considered terrorism, raises questions about security at the airport, including how the man was able to get aboard the plane by himself, CNN safety analyst David Soucie said.
"Federal authorities are assisting with the ongoing investigation which is being led by local authorities".
Fortunately, the only death in the crash was the unnamed joyrider, who still has not yet been named, although air-traffic controllers call him "Rich" during their exchanges.
Communication between the hijacker and Air Traffic Control- "I've got a lot of people that care about me".
"I had 30 to 40 folks involved overnight, out interviewing co-workers and family members, and I just want everybody to understand that this is going to take a little bit of time", Tabb said. In one video shot by a witness on the ground, a man can be heard exclaiming that the pilot "just did a loop-the-loop". "Never knew it, until now". Investigators were working to find out how an airline employee stole the plane Friday and crashed it after being chased by military jets that were quickly scrambled to intercept the aircraft.
A commercial airline was hijacked from Seattle-Tacoma Airport by an airline employee and pursued by two F-15 fighter jets before crashing on Friday.
He then saw the two jets come back around toward him, but not the plane. Flights resumed at about the same time the crash occurred, the airport said in a statement.
"Rich" said in a matter-of-fact way that he fuelled the airplane "to go check out the Olympics", according to audio posted by The Seattle Times newspaper. That's why the F-15s got scrambled to deal with this issue, and it seems highly likely that they would have fired on the plane if it made any aggressive moves towards airports or cities.
This is a developing story.