The family of a man accused of stealing a turboprop plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and crashing it into an island in the Puget Sound Friday evening said they are in “complete shock” at what happened.
The family of Richard Russell, 29, said in a statement released Saturday that he was a loving husband, son, and friend who did not mean to inflict harm on 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.”
Authorities say Russell, who worked as a ground service agent for Horizon, is presumed to be dead after authorities said he crashed into an island due to his “lack of flying skills.”
Investigators say Russell acted alone as a “suicidal male,” there were no other crew members on board, and officials are not investigating the incident as an act of terrorism.
Russell, who also went by the nickname “Beebo,” originally hailed from Wasilla, Alaska, and lived in Sumner, Washington, while working as a ground agent. He got married in 2012.
The Alaskan native was reportedly a standout athlete at Wasilla High School and was known for his friendly and outgoing personality.
Wasilla High’s track and field coach, Gary Howell, remembered Russell as a funny guy and a 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.”
Authorities say they could not pin down a motive for why Russell stole the place, but audio recordings showed that he told air traffic controllers he was “a broken guy.”
The FBI took over the investigation on Friday at midnight and is working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and other agencies.