SEATTLE, Wash. - Officials at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport said an airline employee stole a plane Friday and died after crashing on an island in Puget Sound, according to multiple news sources.
UPDATE: Fire on the south end of Ketron Island is CONTAINED and approx 300’ x 150’. Water supply is a large issue on Ketron, making firefighting difficult. No homes are in this area, just brush. Crews remain on scene to fully extinguish the fire. pic.twitter.com/nebCHMIv06— West Pierce Fire (@WestPierce) August 11, 2018
According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Richard Russell, the “suicidal” 29-year-old airline employee died when he crashed an unoccupied Horizon Air Bombardier Q400 on Ketron Island, 40 miles from the airport.
The man spoke with air traffic controllers while doing stunts in the air.
Update 1:03 a.m. EDT Aug. 13: Federal investigators have found the flight data recorder and “components of the cockpit voice recorder” from the crashed plane, The Associated Press reported late Sunday. The items are being processed by the National Transportation Safety Board, officials said.
The FBI also found human remains at the crash site, and officials confirmed that Russell died in the incident, the AP reported.
The FBI has recovered the flight data recorder from a plane that was taken for a deadly ride by a friendly-sounding airline worker in Seattle before crashing into a remote island. https://t.co/0bMiiTNsu3— AP West Region (@APWestRegion) August 13, 2018
UPDATE: 2:13 a.m. EDT Aug. 11: In a YouTube video released early Saturday, Horizon Air Chief Operating Officer Constance von Muehlen said she believed the plane was taken by a Horizon employee. “Our hearts are with the family of the individual aboard as well as all our Horizon Air and Alaska Air employees,” she said.
UPDATE: 2:01 a.m. EDT Aug. 11: According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, the F-15s that were sent to follow the unauthorized plane were scrambled out of Portland, Oregon. The spokesman also said a sonic boom was caused by an Air Force plane and was not an explosion, as originally believed.
UPDATE: 1:19 a.m. EDT Aug. 11: The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said they were told that F-15s made it within a few minutes of the plane’s unauthorized takeoff. Pilots kept the plane out of harm’s way, the spokesman said.
Told F 15s made it within a few minutes of theft of plane. Pilots kept plane out of harms way and people on ground safe. Yay air force . They may not admit for a few days. But is true..— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) August 11, 2018
UPDATE: 1:10 a.m. EDT Aug. 11: The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the unauthorized pilot was a 29-year-old man from Pierce County who was acting alone. A spokesman described the man as “a suicidal male” and they know his identity. The spokesman added that it was not a terrorist incident.
Follow this thread for official info. This is not a terrorist incident. Confirmed info .. this is a single suicide male. We know who he is. No others involved.— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) August 11, 2018
UPDATE: 12:57 a.m. EDT Aug. 11: Video from a witness shows the Bombardier Q400 passenger plane veering through the sky near Puget Sound near Seattle :
UPDATE 12:45 a.m. EDT Aug 11: The Pierce County Sheriff's Department has confirmed that the Bombardier Q400 passenger aircraft has crashed in an island in Puget Sound near Seattle.
Stolen horizon airplane crashed into Ketron island. Preliminary info is that a mechanic from unknown airlines stole plane. Was doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) August 11, 2018
Earlier: Alaska Airlines says it is aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air plane.
We are aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400. We believe there are no passengers on board. More information as we learn more.— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) August 11, 2018
Air traffic controllers We’re trying to get someone named “Rich” piloting the on authorized Horizon flight to land safely. We’re following reports of a crash now near Anderson Island— Gary Horcher (@GaryKIRO7) August 11, 2018
Some dude stole a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), did a loop-the-loop, ALMOST crashed into #ChambersBay, then crossed in front of our party, chased by fighter jets and subsequently crashed. Weird times. pic.twitter.com/Ra4LcIhwfU— bmbdgty (@drbmbdgty) August 11, 2018
Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the U.S. West.
Please check back for updates
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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