Seattle Airport Employee Who Stole Plane ID'd as Family Speaks Out: 'Beebo Was a Warm, Compassionate Man'
The 29-year-old's full name was Richard Russell and he died in a crash following the bizarre flight.
The Seattle airport baggage handler who managed to fly away in a commercial plane before crashing to Earth as a stunned world watched has been identified.
The man's name was Richard Russell, though a man who addressed reporters on behalf of the heartbroken family Saturday referred to him by his nickname, Beebo.
“It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man,” Mike Mathews said, reading the family's statement. “He was a faithful husband, a loving son and a good friend. A childhood friend remarked that Beebo was loved by everyone because he was kind and gentle to each person he met."
Russell, 29, was apparently able to climb into an otherwise empty 76-seater Horizon Air turboprop, take off, and fly for around an hour while pulling off daring aerial maneuvers on Friday — all with military F-15s at his tail.
Recordings of his communication with air traffic controllers portray a man who, in his own words, had "a few screws loose."
Not, as Mathews pointed out, a man bent on hurting others.
“As the voice recordings show, Beebo’s intent was not to harm anyone," Mathews said. "He was right in saying that there are so many people who loved him.”
Russell apologized to his loved ones during the flight and called himself a "broken guy."
Per the Guardian, investigators believe Russell used his security clearance to steal the plane from a maintenance area.
Russell's job duties included cleaning and towing aircraft, and baggage handling. He underwent a background before being hired by Horizon Air in 2015.
Because of the plane towing part of his job, Russell had a higher security clearance than other ground crew members, according to KING5.
Still, the incident has called into question safety protocols that somehow neglected to stop a man who was not a pilot from simply flying off in a commercial aircraft.
Around an hour into his flight, the plane crashed onto a wooded island on Puget Sound and Russell was killed.
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