He appeared to have acted alone and was suicidal, according to the local sheriff’s department
The airline worker who stole an empty airplane from a Seattle airport on a flight that ended in his death once ran a bakery with his wife and enjoyed the benefits that came with his job to travel the world, social media posts showed.
Richard Russell, who liked to be called Beebo, was a 29-year-old man living in Sumner, Washington, who was born in Key West, Florida, and moved to Wasilla, Alaska, when he was 7 years old, according to a Web page he set up for a college communications class.
He has not been officially named, but multiple news media outlets reported his identity, citing interviews with family, co-workers and law enforcement sources working the case.
Russell worked for Horizon Airlines, a sister carrier of Alaska Airlines, as a ground service agent who helped baggage handlers and was part of Horizon’s tow team, which moved planes around on the tarmac. It was a job that gave him the perk of “being able to fly to Alaska at my leisure,” he wrote on the page.
In a video posted on YouTube last December, Russell shows luggage coming off and being loaded onto aircraft, and describes what the life of a ground service agent can entail.
“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.”
There are then shots of trips he took, including flying over Alaskan fjords, visiting lavender fields in France, touring in Yucatan, Mexico, and attending a hurling match in Dublin, Ireland.
“It evens out in the end,” he says to end the video.
There was no mention in the social media posts of studying to become a pilot but in some posts he spoke of his Christian religious faith and the possibility of joining the military.
On a SoundCloud site, Russell interviews fellow ground service agents, asking them questions that include: “What was one of your best travel experiences using your flight benefits?”
Authorities say he commandeered an empty Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft on Friday night from a maintenance area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He flew for about an hour, often erratically with attempts at aerial stunts, before crashing on Ketron Island in Puget Sound, about 40 kilometres to the southwest.
He appeared to have acted alone and was suicidal, according to the local sheriff’s department.
The Seattle Times quoted Rick Christenson, an operational supervisor with the airline who retired in May, as saying Russell was a quiet person.
“It seemed like he was well liked by the other workers,” Christenson told the paper.
In his final moments captured by partial recordings of his conversations with air traffic controllers that were published online by Broadcastify.com, Russell said he was sorry to disappoint people who cared about him and described himself as a “broken guy.”
“Got a few screws loose, I guess,” he is heard saying in the recording. “Never really knew it until now.” – Reuters