'Suicidal Male' Steals Plane And Crashes After 'Unauthorized Takeoff' From Sea-Tac

A Q400 Turboprop like that stolen from Sea Tac International Airport

Fire crews were working on putting out the fire from the crash on Ketron Island in Puget Sound. Video showed flames amidst trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

Authorities in the Seattle area have confirmed the crash of a stolen commercial airline plane Friday night.

Richard Russell took off in a stolen plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night, flew for about an hour with military jets chasing him and crashed the 76-seater Horizon Air plane in a wooded island, authorities said.

Air traffic controllers and pilots could be heard discussing a "ground stop" and dealing with a backlog of aircraft. 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. "Well I would hope it would be for a guy like me".

The plane was taken by a 29-year-old Sumner man about 8 p.m. and crashed on Ketron Island, near Steilacoom, about 90 minutes later, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

Video taken by a bystander showed the 76-seat plane making a big, slow loop-the-loop as F-15 fighter jets gave chase, then flying low over Puget Sound before crashing into Ketron Island, a sparsely-populated area in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington.

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400, a turboprop plane that seats 76 people, doing large loops and other unsafe manoeuvres as the sun set on Puget Sound.

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The local sheriff's department said on Twitter that either doing stunts "or lack of flying skills" caused the crash.

A "suicidal" airline employee at Seattle's Sea-Tac International Airport stole an empty plane Friday night for a freaky joyride, performing risky air maneuvers under close pursuit by F-15 fighter jets before crashing into an island. Investigators were trying to retrieve the plane's flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder.

"I've got a lot of people that care about me, and it's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this", Russell says.

The man sounds calm at times and jokes with operators on the ground, who try to direct him to places to land.

Russell had worked as a Horizon Air ground service agent for three-and-a-half years. He mentioned "having a few screws loose" and demonstrated signs of suicidal ideation.

"To my knowledge, he didn't have a pilot's license", said Horizon CEO Gary Beck.

An airline employee who stole a Horizon Air passenger plane from a Seattle airport had legitimate access to be near planes.

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"It is highly fragmented, " Debra Eckrote, the Western Pacific regional chief for the National Transportation Safety Board, said of the plane.

"Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed".

Okay this insane. A pilot on the plane in front of us just went rogue and took off on an empty plane bypassing orders from the tower.

Airline officials said the ground service agent had a certification to tow aircraft, which results in a higher security clearance than other ground agents. For one, Russell shouldn't have been able to board the plane alone, he said.

"Dozens of personnel were out at the crash site, and co-workers and family members were being interviewed", he said.

"It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie", one witness said.

Authorities investigate how airline employee could steal a plane
'An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound. They should've gone over and said "Hey, ' if nothing else, 'Can I help you?" "I would hope it is for a guy like me".

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