- The man who stole a plane from Sea-Tac Airport on Friday and crashed it into a nearby island has been identified to The Seattle Times as Richard Russell.
- Authorities have not confirmed his identity, but a recently retired superviser who knew Russell said he was “a quiet guy” and “wel-liked by the other workers.”
- The incident transfixed the country on Friday night the plane took off without authorization, and the man piloting it performed stunts in the air.
The man who authorities said stole a plane from Sea-Tac Airport in Washington state on Friday has been reportedly identified as 29-year-old Richard Russell, a Horizon Air employee who worked on the tow team.
Authorities have not formally identified Russell, but his name was confirmed to The Seattle Times by several sources, including a recently retired operational supervisor who knew him.
Russell is presumed dead after crashing the plane into a small, nearby island.
“He was a quiet guy. It seemed like he was well-liked by the other workers,” Rick Christenson told the newspaper. “I feel really bad for Richard and for his family. I hope they can make it through this.”
Russell helped tow airplanes on the tarmac and handled baggage, Christenson said. As part of the airline’s tow team, Christenson said Russell would have received training on airplane systems like the auxiliary power unit, hydraulics, and radios, and would have performed tasks like communicating with the air-traffic control tower from the cockpit and applying brakes in an emergency.
Authorities said at a press conference Saturday that the employee had been with Horizon Air since 2015, and had undergone various background checks and received full security clearance to be near the airplanes.
Pierce County Sheriff officer Ed Troyer said the man was “suicidal,” and the incident was not terror-related.
The episode transfixed the country on Friday night after authorities reported that a Horizon Air Q400 turboprop plane had taken off without authorization, and the man piloting it was performing stunts in the air while two F-15 fighter jets were scrambled out of Portland, Oregon.
Dispatch audio revealed the conversations between Russell and a cool-headed air-traffic controller, who referred to Russell as “Rich” and attempted to persuade him to try landing the plane. Russell, however, ignored many of the pleas, but apologized to his loved ones.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them,” he said.
“Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess,” he added. “Never really knew it, until now.”