She said she believed the plane was taken by "a single Horizon Air employee" and that no other passengers or crew were onboard. The aircraft then crashed into Ketron Island, 40 km to the southwest of the Seattle/Tacoma Airport.
He said the pilot then "pulled pretty much straight up and kind of at an angle", adding he "somehow he got it levelled back off and then made his way down toward the island".
Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed near Ketron Island.
SeaTac Airport was temporarily grounded amid a security threat.
Mike Ehl, director of aviation operations at the airport, said the man "had access legitimately" to the plane and that "no security violations were committed".
"I've got a lot of people that care about me", the man later said. "I would like to apologize to each and every one of them".
An airline mechanic who stole a Horizon Air plane from a Seattle airport told air traffic controllers that he was a "broken guy" but also joked about whether the airline would hire him as a pilot if he landed safely. "Never knew it, until now". "We will provide more details when appropriate. I want to go see that guy", Russell explains, according to audio obtained by Canadian journalist Jimmy Thomson.
During the conversation, the man says he had put some fuel in the plane "to go check out the Olympics" - the Olympic Mountains that lie about 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.
Russell took off in a Bombardier Q400 commercial plane around 8 p.m. on Friday and proceeded to fly in loops over the water.
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"I want to thank the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling jets to keep Washingtonians safe", Inslee tweeted, adding: "Those pilots are trained for moments like tonight and showed they are ready and capable". I don't know man! "The responding fighter pilots flew alongside the aircraft and were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us", Washington State governor Jay Inslee tweeted on Friday, "but in the end the man flying the stolen plane crashed".
They may have cost him his life, but an airline employee's acrobatics in an empty propeller plane he stole in Seattle drew words of wonder from the head of the company where he'd worked.
The Federal Aviation Administration said: 'We can't confirm anything at this time. "I hope they can make it through this", he added.
There were no reports of injuries on the ground, he said, except presumably the pilot.
Dozens of personnel were out at the crash site, and co-workers and family members were being interviewed, he said.
President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident and is monitoring the situation, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Saturday morning.
The FBI's Seattle office said the plane's theft and crash weren't considered terrorism.
"I thought they were practicing for an air show", he said.
A video posted to social media shows the aircraft flying loops as the F-15s flew in pursuit.
'It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie, ' he told the newspaper.