Stolen helicopter crashes shortly after takeoff at Sacramento airport

Officials inspect a crashed helicopter lying on its side at Sacramento Executive Airport.
Officials inspect a helicopter that crashed as a suspected thief tried to take off from Sacramento Executive Airport on Wednesday.
(Nathaniel Levine / Sacramento Bee via Associated Press)

A person who tried to steal a helicopter Wednesday morning at Sacramento Executive Airport crashed into the tarmac shortly after starting the aircraft, according to authorities.

It’s unclear how far the helicopter got off the ground before crashing. Images taken by KCRA-TV in Sacramento showed a black helicopter lying on its side with pieces of the aircraft, including the rotor blades, scattered on the ground. Crews used a crane to stand the aircraft back onto its landing gear, authorities told the station.

The Sacramento Police Department told KCRA that the suspect damaged four other helicopters before starting the aircraft that crashed. When officers arrived at the scene, they found the helicopter with “major damage,” according to a police statement.

An airline worker stole an empty Alaska Airlines plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington on Friday night, and the National Guard scrambled two fighter jets to chase the aircraft, which crashed on a sparsely populated island in Puget Sound, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter is a Bell 429 and it crashed around 5 a.m. There’s no information of how many people were inside the helicopter when it crashed or whether anyone was injured, the FAA said.


The suspect remains at large, according to authorities.

The FBI has taken the lead in the investigation and agents were collecting evidence from the scene. FBI Special Agent Sean Reagan told KCRA that authorities had identified a person of interest, but declined to reveal any information about an arrest or motive.

“If someone wanted to take an aircraft for a joyride, someone who wanted to take an aircraft to do some other criminal activity or damage to other property, terrorism would be at the other end of the scope,” Reagan said.

Authorities say an airport worker who flew a stolen plane erratically over north Mississippi and threatened to crash it into a Walmart store has died in prison while awaiting trial.