Fragments of stolen plane scattered after crash

Roman Schwartz
August 12, 2018

Video showed fiery flames amid trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

An ground service agent at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is dead after stealing and crashing a commercial airliner on Friday.

The Alaska Airlines plane was stolen without any passengers on board and took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state on Friday night before crashing near Ketron Island.

The plane was stolen at around 8 pm (0300 GMT Saturday) and crashed 90 minutes later, officials said.

A recording of a live air-traffic control feed obtained by Seattle Times has since revealed the conversation between air traffic controllers and a man referred to as "Rich" and "Richard" before the crash. He expressed both remorse for what he was doing and enthusiasm for attempting aerobatics, and at times seemed to imply that he meant to end his own life.

Southers says that if the man knew how to do loops he likely had the skills to target people on the ground.

Yesterday's crash happened because Mr Russell was "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills", the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said.

Richard Russell, 29, flew the plane for over an hour before it crashed on Ketron Island in south Puget Sound.

North American Aerospace Defense Command scrambled two F-15 fighter jets to deal with the Horizon Air plane.

Federal authorities on Saturday were seeking to learn what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport in a security scare that caused the scrambling of US fighter jets and ended when the plane crashed.

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Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, said on Twitter that the man was suicidal and there was no connection to terrorism.

They said the incident had come as a complete shock. Investigators were trying to retrieve the plane's flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder.

In one, the controller can be heard telling the pilot: "What we don't want to see is you get hurt or anyone else get hurt, so like I said, if you want to land, that's probably the best way to go".

"Oh, man, those guys will rough me up if I try and land there", the man says.

Alaska Airlines said the suspect was a ground service agent employed by Horizon. At one point, Russell says he is a "broken guy" with "a few screws loose". "That's their job, to be around these airplanes and to work on them", Tilden said.

The Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplane is designed for shorter-distance flights and can seat 76 passengers, Alaska Air said on its website.

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. Initial information had said he was an airline mechanic.

Normal operations at Sea-Tac resumed around 9:30 Friday night.

It's unclear if Russell knew how to fly but the plane audio between Russell and the control tower seem to suggest that he didn't know how to fly the plane he was operating. For one, Russell shouldn't have been able to board the plane alone, he said.

'It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie, ' he told the newspaper.

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