29-year-old Richard Russell stole empty plane, crashed into Ketron Island Friday night
By Burcu Arik
The U.S. officials on Saturday identified the man who stole an empty passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and crashed into a little island Friday night as Richard Russell, an airline employee.
The 29-year-old man was working for Horizon Airlines ground services and did not have a pilot’s license.
No passenger was reported aboard the 76-seat plane, and Russell is believed to have died when the plane crashed into Ketron Island, about 30 miles (48 km) southwest of the Washington state.
Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, said on Twitter that the man was suicidal and had no terror connection.
“Male is confirmed a suicidal male. Acted alone he is 29-year-old Pierce county residence. We are working back ground on him now,” he wrote.
The Sheriff’s department earlier tweeted that the crash may have been caused by the man “doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills”.
The FBI’s Seattle office tweeted Saturday afternoon that it launched an investigation into the incident.
“The FBI is going to be thorough, which means taking the time needed to scour the area, delve into the background of the individual believed responsible for Friday night’s incident, and review every aspect with all appropriate public and private partners,” it said.
In audio recordings with air traffic controllers, Russell says he is a “broken guy” with “a few screws loose.”
“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 says, cited in local media reports.
The incident has raised concerns over airport security.