Stolen Plane Crash-The Latest
SEATAC, Wash. (AP) – The Latest on a plane stolen from Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state (all times local):
7:55 p.m.The family of a man who authorities say stole an airplane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and later crashed it called him a faithful husband, loving son and good friend. In a statement, the family says Richard Russell, whose nickname was “Beebo,” was warm, kind and gentle. They say says this is a complete shock. Russell is presumed dead. Authorities don’t know why he took the plane, but he could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is “just a broken guy.” His family says it’s clear he didn’t mean to harm anyone.
7:25 p.m. The man authorities say stole an airplane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and later crashed it was an outgoing star athlete at an Alaska high school. Coaches at Wasilla High School, where Richard Russell was a football player, wrestler and discus thrower, told the Anchorage Daily News they are shocked at the news. Gary Howell, track and field coach, says Russell was the kind of kid you want on your team. He remembered him as a funny guy who also had a smile and a joke and was a great team player. Wasilla wrestling coach Shawn Hayes says Russell was respectful and a good kid. Authorities believe Russell was killed when the aircraft crashed into a small island southwest of Seattle.
2:41 p.m. The man who stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport was Richard Russell, a U.S. official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Authorities on Saturday said a 29-year-old man used a machine called a pushback tractor to first maneuver the aircraft so he could board and then take off Friday evening. He was presumably killed about an hour later when the aircraft crashed into a small island southwest of Seattle. The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is “just a broken guy.” An air traffic controller called the man “Rich,” and tried to convince the man to land the airplane. Russell went by “Beebo” on social media, and on his Facebook page, which had limited public access. He said he was from Wasilla, Alaska, and lived in Sumner, Washington, and was married in 2012. In a humorous YouTube video he posted last year, he talked about his job and included videos and photos of his various travels.”I lift a lot of bags. Like a lot of bags. So many bags,” he said. -Mike Balsamo, Associated Press
11:45 a.m. Authorities say the man who stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle was a 3.5-year Horizon employee and had clearance to be among aircraft. Authorities on Saturday also say the 29-year-old man used a machine called a pushback tractor to first maneuver the aircraft so he could board and then take off Friday evening. The man didn’t have a pilot’s license, and authorities say it’s unclear how he attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft before crashing about an hour after taking off into a small island in the Puget Sound. Authorities say the man went through various background checks to get clearance to be in the secured area.
9:45 a.m. Federal investigators say a stolen Horizon Air turboprop plane broke into many pieces when it crashed into an area of thick brush on a small island in the Puget Sound. But investigators said Saturday they still anticipate they will be able to recover data recorders from the aircraft. Debra Eckrote, a regional chief with the National Transportation Safety Board, says the wings are off the plane and the fuselage is upside down. Officials say an airline employee stole the empty plane and took off from Sea-Tac International Airport on Friday night. Eckrote said it was very fortunate that the plane crashed in a relatively unpopulated island. She believes that once NTSB investigators reach the crash site they’ll be able to find the cockpit voice recorder and the plane’s data recorder.
9:30 a.m. A transportation security expert says a man who stole a plane from Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle likely had some pilot training, and military craft that pursued him possibly prevented a tragedy. Erroll Southers says Saturday that the unidentified man represents one of the greatest threats to aviation by being an insider cleared to have access to aircraft. Southers is director of homegrown violent extremism studies at the University of Southern California. Officials say an airline employee stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane and took off from the airport Friday night. Video shows him doing large loops and other dangerous maneuvers. He was chased by military jets before crashing into an island in the Puget Sound. Southers says that if the man knew how to do loops he likely had the skills to target people on the ground.
5:30 a.m. President Donald Trump has been briefed on the man who stole a plane from Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle before crashing it into a small, nearby island. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday morning Trump is monitoring the situation. He’s currently at his New Jersey golf club. She commended the response effort for its “swift action” and public safety protection. Officials say an airline employee stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane and took off from the airport Friday night. Video shows him doing large loops and other dangerous maneuvers. He was chased by military jets before crashing into an island in the Puget Sound. His identity and condition are unknown. A sheriff’s department spokesman said the man may have been suicidal but there was no terrorism connection.
12:16 a.m. Airline officials say the man who stole a plane from Sea-Tac International Airport is believed to be a ground service agent. Authorities initially said the man was a mechanic but Alaska Airlines later said he was an employee who helps direct aircraft to gates and de-ice planes. Officials say the “suicidal” airline employee stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane and took off from Sea-Tac Friday night before crashing into a small island. Authorities say there is no connection to terrorism and they do not believe anyone else was on the plane.
11:10 p.m. An airline mechanic who stole a Horizon Air plane from a Seattle airport told air traffic controllers that he was a “broken guy” but also joked about whether the airline would hire him as a pilot if he landed safely. The man, who was addressed as “Rich” in audio recordings with air traffic controllers, said he didn’t want to land at a nearby military base. He told them, “Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there.” During another part of the exchange, the man said he was concerned he was going to run low on fuel. Later, he said he’s “got a lot of people that care about me.” He said he didn’t want to disappoint them but that he was “just a broken guy, got a dew screws loose, I guess.”
10:15 p.m. Sheriff’s officials say a man who stole an Alaska Airlines plane from an airport in Washington state was “suicidal” and there is no connection to terrorism. Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, says on Twitter Friday night that a 29-year-old airline mechanic stole the Horizon Air Q400 from Sea-Tac International Airport. Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed near Ketron Island. There were no passengers aboard. The sheriff’s department said they were working to conduct a background investigation on the man, whose name was not immediately released. The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he’s “got a lot of people that care about me” and that he is “just a broken guy.”
9:50 p.m. Officials at Sea-Tac International Airport say an Alaska Airlines plane that was stolen by an airline employee and has crashed in Washington state. Airport officials say in a tweet Friday night that an airline employee “conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers.” Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft near the airport. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter that preliminary information suggested that a mechanic had stolen the aircraft. The tweet said the crash may have been caused by the mechanic “doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills.” A Coast Guard spokeswoman said the agency was responding to a report of a smoke plume and possible plane crash. Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said a 45-foot vessel was headed to the scene.
9:37 p.m. Alaska Airlines says there was an “unauthorized take-off” of an airplane and witnesses reported a jet being chased by military planes near Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state. The airline tells The Associated Press that the plane was a Horizon Air Q400 and it believed no passengers were on board. No other information was immediately available. Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the U.S. West. The Q400 ix a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.