MAN WAS FROM WASILLA
Hundreds of Alaskans were stuck in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night after the airspace around Seattle was shut down entirely for hours.
A Horizon Air Q400 had been stolen by a man who was later identified as a suicidal -29-year-old, who had taken off in the 76-seater turbo-prop that later crashed the plane on Ketron Island, west of Tacoma.
“I’ve never seen so many planes in one place,” said Jeremy Price, Alaska director for Americans for Prosperity, who was trying to get back to Anchorage after a business trip to New Orleans.
Price’s incoming jet circled for a long time, he said, until it got low on fuel and was landed at Sea-Tac. The pilot had announced the problem to passengers and said the jet might have to land at Boeing Field.
Two F-15s were scrambled out of Portland and were alongside the rogue plane within minutes to keep the plane away from populated areas.
By then, the plane was being piloted in stunt maneuvers such as a barrel roll, before the pilot said he would “call it a night,” and flew it into the ground. The F-15s were trying to steer it out over water.
The unauthorized pilot, identified as Richard “Beebo” Russell, was a ground service employee of Alaska Airlines, which explained his access to the plane. He is reported to have used a pushback tug to move the jet into position before he boarded and took off. No one else was on board. Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said that the FBI has taken over the investigation.
Anchorage former mayoral candidate Rebecca Logan’s daughter was also among the dozens of Alaskans who had just landed in Seattle; the Alaska Airlines jet she was on was stuck on the tarmac for an hour, Logan said.
“She texted me that they landed and asked me if Seattle is the place where there’s always a delay on the tarmac. And then she texted ‘OMG someone stole a plane.’ That’s when we turned on the news,” said Logan, who is president of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance.
Russell, in conversation with air traffic control, said “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. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it, until now.”
Russell also said he was looking for a “moment of serenity,” and asked officials if the plane could do a back flip.
He also said, in jest, that he didn’t need help with landing the plane as he had played video games. And then he wondered aloud if Alaska Airlines would hire him as a pilot if he successfully landed the aircraft. Russell was married and left behind his wife and child.
His family, who calls him by his nickname “Beebo,” released a statement today:
Russell graduated from Wasilla High School in 2008, according to the Anchorage Daily News. He was a football player, wrestler, and thrower in high school and placed fifth in the discus throw in 2008 at the state track and field championships.
He attended Valley City State University in Valley City, N.D., where he played football for a season.
Ketron Island is 221 acres and has a population of 17.
The video by John Waldron of the plane before it crashed can be found here:
ANCHORAGE SMALL PLANE STOLEN, CRASHED IN TO BUILDING IN 2015
In December of 2015, a Cessna 172 was stolen from the Civil Air Patrol and was crashed into two buildings in downtown Anchorage, also believed to be a suicide. It was piloted by a licensed pilot and first lieutenant with CAP, but the man was not authorized to fly the plane at that time.
The pilot’s wife worked in one of the buildings struck by the plane, the Brady Building. She was not in the building at the time. The other building that was struck, the Carr-Gottstein Building, caught fire and sustained substantial damage.