Horizon Air worker dead after stealing airplane, crashing near Tacoma, Washington


Horizon Air worker dead after stealing airplane, crashing near Tacoma, Washington

Alec Andersen

14 August 2018

Richard Russell, a ground crew worker for Horizon Air, was found dead Friday after taking an airplane from a maintenance area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and going on an hour-long joyride before crashing onto a largely unpopulated island in the Puget Sound near Tacoma, Washington. The tragic circumstances surrounding Russell’s death have called renewed attention to the working conditions experienced by ground crew workers at Horizon and throughout the airline industry.

Russell, known as “Beebo” to friends and coworkers, stole one of Horizon’s fleet of 76-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 twin turboprop airplanes from a northern section of the airport after his shift ended Friday evening, using a tow vehicle to point the plane in the direction of the runway.

Just after 7:30 p.m. Friday evening, Russell took off in the plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, located 11 miles south of Seattle, and began flying south over the Puget Sound, performing aerobatic maneuvers and speaking intermittently with air traffic controllers.

In an audio recording of his communications Russell described himself as a “broken guy,” expressing a desire for this to be “the end” and apologizing to his family for disappointing them, while repeatedly stating his desire not to harm anyone.

“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me, and it’s going to disappoint them to hear 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 says in the recording.

Asked to explain what drove him to steal the plane, Russell told air traffic controllers,

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