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.
The man, who was addressed as "Rich" in audio recordings with air traffic controllers, said he didn't want to land at a nearby military base.
He told them, "Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there."
During another part of the exchange, the man said he was concerned he was going to run low on fuel.
Later, he said he's "got a lot of people that care about me."
He said he didn't want to disappoint them but that he was "just a broken guy, got a dew screws loose, I guess".
Earlier, Sea-Tac International Airport officials said in a tweet that the airline employee "conducted an unauthorised takeoff without passengers."
Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed near Ketron Island. There were no passengers aboard.
The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter that preliminary information suggested that a mechanic had stolen the aircraft.
The tweet said the crash may have been caused by the mechanic "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills."
The US Coast Guard was sending a 45-foot vessel to the crash scene after witnesses reported seeing a large plume of smoke in the air, Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said.
The man's name was not immediately released.
A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration directed inquiries to local authorities.
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