Sea-Tac Plane Thief Remembered as 'Kind and Gentle' by Family and Friends

The family of Richard Russell is speaking out after his fatal flight on Friday, calling him a "kind and gentle" man.

Russell, 29, was a baggage handler for Horizon Air working at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, Washington. On Friday, Russell reportedly hijacked a Q400 plane by himself, and took it for a 45-minute joyride before crashing it into nearby Ketron Island. Russell was the only casualty.

On Saturday night, Russell's family released a statement on the shocking story, which was published by CNN. They referred to him by his nickname, "Beebo," and said that he was "kind and gentle to each person he met."

"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 believe Russell was suicidal at the time of his unauthorized flight. They have assured the public that this was not an act of terrorism. His family identified him as "a faithful husband, a loving son and a good friend."

Like the rest of the country, the family was stricken by the recordings of Russell's final conversation with air traffic controllers. They took solace in the fact that his "intent was not to harm anyone."

"He was right in saying that there are so many people who have loved him," the statement continued.

The family has no idea what comes next, but said that they are "moving forward with the difficult task of processing our grief."

Russell's former co-worker, Jeremy Kaelin, also spoke to the news outlet. He had plenty of compliments for Russell, and was completely shocked by his sudden break with reality.

"He was a nice guy," Kaelin said. "He was definitely one of the harder working people on the ramps. He was always trying to be faster, but, yet, he still worked in a safe manner."

Kaelin added that Russell "was always great to work with — we got our flights out on time, if not early, most of the time." Kaelin, too, was horrified by the audio clips circulating on social media.

"It just hurts to hear someone you know, and just hear the pain in their voice," he said.

Kaelin, too, was horrified by the audio clips circulating on social media. "It just hurts to hear someone you know, and just hear the pain in their voice," he said.

"I've got a lot of people that care about me," Russell said in one clip. "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."

In one snippet, he even seems to consider landing at the runway he is being directed to, before saying "This is probably jail time for life, huh? Well I would hope it would be for a guy like me."

One broken clip even seems to show Russell identifying his own motives for the air traffic controllers.

"Ah, minimum wage," he said simply. "We'll chalk it up to that. Maybe that will grease the gears a little bit with the higher-ups."

0comments

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Photo credit: CBS / Facebook, Richard Russell