According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the 29-year-old suspect was either “doing stunts in the air” or improperly operating the aircraft during the hour-long chase.
Per CNN, the man also had some bizarre and heartbreaking radio correspondence from the cockpit before the 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop went down.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me, and it’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” the man said. “I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.”
Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, said on Twitter that the man was suicidal
With F-15 jets not far behind him, the man’s intentions become clear as he spoke to air traffic controllers who were trying to get the man to safely land the plane.
“I don’t need that much help. I’ve played some video games before,” he said. “I don’t know! I don’t want to. I was kinda hoping that was gonna be it. Ya know?”
The man, who was a ground agent at Sea-Tac Airport and not a pilot, eventually crashed on Ketron Island and died.
While the case is not being called terrorism, it has called into question safety protocols that somehow neglected to stop the man from simply flying off in a commercial aircraft.
I want to thank the Air National Guard from Washington and Oregon for scrambling jets to keep Washingtonians safe. Those pilots are trained for moments like tonight and showed they are ready and capable.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) August 11, 2018
As federal agencies investigate, state and airline officials responded to the strange and tragic event with sympathy and thanks.
“I want to thank the Air National Guard from Washington and Oregon for scrambling jets to keep Washingtonians safe,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted. “Those pilots are trained for moments like tonight and showed they are ready and capable.”
Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden also issued a statement.
“I want to share how incredibly sad all of us at Alaska are about this incident. Our heart is heavy for the family and friends of the person involved,” Tilden wrote.