Authorities have identified Richard Russell, 29, as the airline employee who stole a plane Friday night and crashed it on a small island. He is presumed dead. (Social Media)
The family of a man who authorities say stole a Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport and crashed it on an island in Puget Sound on Friday night, said news of the incident was a "complete shock" to them.
Richard Russell, 29, who is presumed dead, was a ground-service agent for Horizon.
In a written statement to the media on Saturday, Russell’s family described him as a faithful husband, loving son and a good friend who didn’t mean to harm anyone.
“This is a complete shock to us,” the statement read. “We are devastated by these events and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now.”
“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.”
They did not take questions from reporters.
According to his social media accounts, Russell went by the nickname “Beebo.” He said he was from Wasilla, Alaska, and lived in Sumner, Wash., and married in 2012.
Russell was reportedly a star athlete at Wasilla High School, where he earned a reputation for being outgoing and friendly.
Gary Howell, a Wasilla High track and field coach, said he remembered Russell as a funny guy who also had a smile and a joke and was a great team player.
“Absolutely the kind of kid you want on your team,” Howell told the Anchorage Daily News. “The kid I know wouldn’t do that.”
Shawn Hayes, Wasilla’s wrestling coach, described Russell as respectful and a good kid.
“[N]o signs of what happened, that’s for sure,” Hayes said.
Authorities said they don’t know why Russell took the plane, but could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he was “just a broken guy.”
Toward midnight on Friday, the investigation was handed off to the FBI, which was working with the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies, the Seattle Times reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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