The family of a Seattle Aiport worker who stole and then crashed a commercial aircraft has spoken out about their utter devastation at the tragic events. Richard Russell, 29, was working as a ground services agent at Seattle-Tacoma International airport when he decided to hijack an empty plane Friday and proceed to fly it around the local area, performing various aerobatic maneuvers, before crashing into an island off the coast of Washington State.
Russell was reportedly suffering from mental health issues prior to his death, with his family calling him a “faithful husband, a loving son and a good friend.”
Video: Friend of Richard Russell, the man who stole a plane and crashed it near Seattle makes statement for his family. They're shocked and surprised, call him a faithful husband and loving son. https://t.co/IsDxf8Xst2 pic.twitter.com/A5pdh25Bqx
— WPEC CBS12 News (@CBS12) August 12, 2018
The family said they were “stunned and heartbroken” after learning of the awful news.
“It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man. It is impossible to encompass who he was in a press release,” they wrote in a statement read to the press by a family friend.
The family also noted that their faith in Jesus Christ is the only thing that is keeping them going at this difficult time.
“This is a complete shock to us. We are devastated by these events and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now. Without Him we would be hopeless,” the statement continued. “We would like to thank the authorities who have been both helpful and respectful, Alaska Air for their resources, the community, his friends and his family for their incredible support and compassion, and Jesus whose steadfast love endures.”
— Swarf🌲✈️🌅 (@Swarf64) August 11, 2018
Others who knew Richard, known affectionately as “Beebo,” talked of their heartbreak at the news of his untimely death.
“Had a difficult time sleeping. Eventually woke up extremely sad hoping it was a dream. Heavy heart. Tears falling down my cheek. Still shaken. Still shaking. Devastated,” wrote one of Rich’s co-workers in a Facebook post. He said Rich was “always smiling” and was “very hard working.”
“You’re a good guy. We saw videos of your flight. I cried so much today because you are gone now,” another friend added. “You will not be forgotten. It’s so sad that you were unhappy and didn’t have help through it all.”
Russell was hired by Alaska Air Group as a ground operator in February 2015. In light of his ability to successfully perform complex air maneuvers, the company is still trying to figure out whether he had undergone any formal flight training.
The CEO of Horizon Air, the airline that operated the stolen aircraft, said that the loops and turns Russell completed were nothing short of “incredible maneuvers,” according to CNBC.
After an empty passenger plane was stolen from a Seattle airport, video has emerged of its pilot doing aerial stunts.bbc.in/2Mpw7cV
Posted by BBC News on Saturday, August 11, 2018
“I don’t know how he achieved the experience that he did,” added CEO Gary Beck.
“I’ve played video games before and I know what I’m doing a little bit,” Russell told Air Traffic Control when they asked him how comfortable he was at the controls of the aircraft. Along with asking ATC whether the plane was capable of a “backflip,” Russell also said he was “just a broken guy” with “a few screws loose.”
“I guess, never really knew it until now,” he added.