Did Someone Try to Steal a SkyWest Plane in Utah Last Night? [UPDATE: YES]
SkyWest Airlines crews at their home base of St. George, Utah, arrived at work this morning to find one of their Delta Connection-liveried Bombardier
CRJ-700 CRJ-200 jets nosed into a ditch. The airport’s lone terminal also suffered some damage along with several private cars in the parking lot.
Details remain very sketchy. What we do know is the incident occurred around 3 am local time, according to a KSL report. Initially there were no reports of injuries, but later the possibility of one seriously injured person was raised.
The airport was closed completely until late Tuesday morning as the FBI and local police investigated. Roads surrounding the airport were also closed. Several flights were cancelled, some were being operated out Cedar City Municipal Airport about 70 miles north of St. George, while some were being replaced by bus service.
No one is saying who or what was responsible for the damage, nor the nature of the damage. The plane in the ditch was first revealed through a reader-submitted cellphone photo posted on KSL.com.
More recent pictures showed the plane being lifted by crane from an area that appeared to be a public parking area, and the plane’s left wing had obviously contacted some parked cars. Presumably the damage to the terminal could have also been caused by the plane hitting it.
So what happened? In the photos we’ve seen so far, the plane did not appear to have a tug or a towbar attached to it, which could indicate that the plane’s engines were actually powered up and it was moving on its own.
It is possible that a group of people could have pushed it by hand, but to push a larger CRJ any considerable distance would have required a pretty large group.
The plane was still in one piece, but there was no way of telling how severe the damage without getting a closer view of the fuselage. All of the plane’s Delta branding, including the tail and the fuselage titles, are now covered in white plastic.
Based on the fact that the FBI and TSA were investigating, it seems that this was not an accident caused by a SkyWest employee in the course of his job.
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UPDATE 1:30 PM ET: ABC 4 KTVX reporter Marcos Ortiz has tweeted an unconfirmed report from the scene that a murder suspect or a fugitive may have been involved in the incident. He also says that one person may have been killed, but is awaiting a statement from the St. George assistant city manager.
UPDATE 2:15 PM ET: Brian Joseph Hedglin, a 40-year-old SkyWest pilot who was wanted for murdering his girlfriend in Colorado Springs, committed suicide in the plane after attempting to steal it.
ABC 4 reports that Hedglin rode his motorcycle to the airport and hopped a fence at around 12:30 am.
He then started up the aircraft and began taxiing. According to one witness account, the plane hit a jetway, sheared its right wing into the terminal, plowed through the perimeter fence and collapsed its nose gear before taking out six cars and coming to rest in a ditch adjacent to a car parking lot.
Hedglin was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside the aircraft.