They intercepted the plane near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
"Oh man", Rich says, "those guys will rough me up if I try and land there".
Video taken by a bystander showed the 76-seat plane making a big, slow loop-the-loop as F-15 fighter jets gave chase, then flying low over Puget Sound before crashing into Ketron Island, a sparsely-populated area in the northwestern USA state of Washington.
Federal authorities on Saturday were seeking to learn what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport in a security scare that caused the scrambling of USA fighter jets and ended when the plane crashed.
Two military F-15 chased plane but was not involved in the crash, the sheriff's department tweeted.
At a news conference officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said that they are still working with authorities as they investigate what happened.
The Sheriff's Department said it was "not a terrorist incident".
An airline employee's unauthorized takeoff from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport before dying in a crash will likely prompt a major review of already tightly controlled industry security measures, experts said Saturday.
Alaska Airlines on Twitter said the airplane was a Q400 airplane belonging to Horizon Air.
Per CNN, the man also had some freakish and heartbreaking radio correspondence from the cockpit before the 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop went down.
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor called the flight a "joyride gone horribly wrong", while also referring to Russell as "suicidal".
There was no connection to terrorism, said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the sheriff's department.
"This is a complete shock to us", the family said in a statement they released Saturday night.
It was unclear where he got the skills to perform such manoeuvres, authorities said.
He then said: "I wouldn't know how to land - I wasn't really planning on landing it". "We have no indication of any casualties other than the person on the plane".
Fire crews were working on putting out the fire from the crash on Ketron Island in Puget Sound.
An investigation will also seek to determine how a ground service worker was able to access the plane's cockpit and steal it in the first place.
"Safety is our number one goal", Alaska Airlines chief executive Brad Tilden said.
Video from a witness on the ground shows the plane at one point pulling up for a loop, putting the aircraft upside-down and then pulling back up just feet above a body of water.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this morning that President Donald Trump is "monitoring the situation".
"Governor Jay Inslee thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling jets and said in a statement "there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident".
As two fighter pilots flew behind and closed in on the Q400, Richard crash-landed the plane in a cloud of smoke.
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I came in the academy, I grew up. "He's one of the players that I have to speak to, to see how physically and mentally he feels". He wrote: " I'll always give my best to the fans and my teammates no matter what's going on ".