US federal authorities sought Saturday to determine the reasons that prompted Richard Russell, an employee at Horizon Airline, to steal an empty plane at the Seattle Airport and crashed into an island.
This ground service agent from Horizon Air boarded the Bombardier Q400 aircraft on Friday night during a maintenance procedure at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and took off, Alaska Airlines said, an air unit linked to Horizon.
The man – aged 29 and married – flew the plane for about an hour, often before crashing in an island at Ketron in Puget Sound.
Richard Russell committed suicide and apparently acted alone, according to the Pierce County sheriff department, which claimed that the employee was believed to have died in the crash.
According to reports, the FBI has ruled out that the man had ties with terrorist organizations and attributed the incident to his desire to commit suicide.
In the partial recordings of his conversations with air traffic personnel that were posted on the Internet by Broadcastify.com , the young man said he regretted disappointing the people who cared about him and described himself as a “tormented man”.
“I have a couple of loose screws, I think,” he said, according to the recording. “I never really knew, until now,” he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and the National Air Transportation Board (NTSB) are still investigating the incident.
“Until the FBI has the opportunity to get more background on this person, determine what motivations he had, it is too early to say what his objective was,” said Debra Eckrote, NTSB regional deputy director , at a press conference.
Two F-15 fighters were deployed from a base in Portland, Oregon, and arrived on the scene in minutes. The military planes were armed but did not open fire, according to a local aerospace defense spokesman.
Instead, the F-15 pilots and air traffic controllers tried to guide Bombardier westward, away from populated areas, the spokesman said. No one was injured in the field, authorities said.