'Suicidal' mechanic stole empty plane then crashed into island after F15 chase

Cornelia Mascio
Agosto 12, 2018

The two F-15C aircraft that scrambled from Portland didn't fire the plane, authorities said.

All departures and arrivals were halted at the busy airport for some time but have since resumed. We have police boats, we have everybody responding.

Mike Mathews, a friend of Russell, said at a press conference the incident came as a "complete shock".

"The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat, " Erroll Southers, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and transportation security expert, told the AP. We know who he is. There were no passengers aboard.

Richard Russell was suicidal when he stole the empty passenger plane, authorities say.

"It may seem hard for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man", the statement said.

The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known, but the F-15s did not bring the plane down, Eckrote said.

Horizon Air CEO Gary Beck said it was not clear how the man knew how to start the engine, which requires a series of switches and levers.

One user tweeted, "Some dude stole a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), did a loop-the-loop, nearly crashed into #ChambersBay, then crossed in front of our party, chased by fighter jets and subsequently crashed".

Minutes later the jet crashed into the islands in a ball of flames. Ketron Island is a sparsely populated island 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the airport. No structures on the ground were damaged by the plane, which sparked a small wildfire. "Pilots kept the plane out of harm's way and people on ground safe", the sheriff said on Twitter.

"Acting alone." He had been identified by authorities as a resident of Pierce County, though his name has not been released Friday.

"Our hearts are with the families of the individual aboard as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees", said Constance von Muehlen, the airline's chief operating officer.

Fighter jets were scrambled after Russell, 29, stole a 76-seat Horizon Air plane at about 7.32pm local time on Friday.

In the chilling recording, he revealed he was a "broken man" and apologised to the air traffic controller.

The unnamed man flying the twin-engine turboprop engaged in an hour-long back and forth negotiation with air traffic control where he mentioned not intending to land the aircraft, before the fiery crash on Ketron Island in North Pierce County, just south of Tacoma.

"There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile", the controller says, reffering to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"That means I lift a lot of bags, like a lot of bags, so many bags", he says, adding, "it allows me to do some pretty cool things, too".

At one point, he said: "Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?" "Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess".

Flights out of Sea-Tac, the largest commercial airport in the Pacific Northwest, were temporarily grounded during the drama.

After flying around an unpredictable path, the plane crashed at a nearby island. The crash sparked a 2-acre wildfire.

On Saturday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told media that President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident and is now "monitoring the situation" in Seattle. Near the end of the video, you can also see the aftermath of the crash.

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