Seattle Airport surveillance video shows man stealing Alaska Airlines passenger plane for joyride

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Newly-released surveillance video shows the moment a baggage handler at Seattle Airport stole an Alaska Airlines plane before deliberately crashing it on a remote island, killing himself.

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Authorities at the Port of Seattle have released airport surveillance video from cameras both inside the terminal and out on the tarmac that document the unfolding incident in real time.

In the footage, 29-year-old Richard Russell, who worked as a baggage handler at the airport, is seen passing through airport security.

He can be seen wearing a black T-shirt with the words ‘The Sky’s No Limit’ printed on the back. He grabs his backpack and continues.

The FBI has released surveillance footage that shows the circumstances leading to the theft of an aircraft at Seattle Airport

The FBI has released surveillance footage that shows the circumstances leading to the theft of an aircraft at Seattle Airport

Richard 'Bebo' Russell, a ground service agent with no pilot experience could be seen wearing an interesting choice of t-shirt

Richard ‘Bebo’ Russell, a ground service agent with no pilot experience could be seen wearing an interesting choice of t-shirt

Russell can be seen walking through security using his work credentials to pass into the airside area of ​​the airport

Russell can be seen walking through security using his work credentials to pass into the airside area of ​​the airport

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Russell then enters a restricted area reserved for baggage handlers at the airport

Russell then enters a restricted area reserved for baggage handlers at the airport

Richard Russell, 29, worked as a baggage handler at the airport and had access to aircraft on the tarmac

Richard Russell, 29, worked as a baggage handler at the airport and had access to aircraft on the tarmac

More than five hours later, he is then seen making it out onto the tarmac in the cargo area of ​​the airport and then using a tow vehicle to push the propeller aircraft back out onto a taxiway.

Air traffic control started to sense something was not right, and tried to make contact with the plane, but received no response.

Meanwhile, Russell’s co-workers can be seen walking nearby, oblivious to the fact that he is about to get behind the controls of the plane.

Russell can be seen opening the cabin door to the Q400 Turboprop and jumping into the cockpit and taking off.

‘Seattle ground Horizon guy. About to take off. It’s gonna be crazy,’ he radios the control tower.

Video shot from the ground later shows him performing stunts over Puget Sound.

Hey, I found myself in a predicament. I’m in the air right now. And just gonna soar around,’ he can be heard saying over the radio.

On air traffic control recordings, Russel can be heard speaking with controllers who try to persuade him to make a safe landing.

Russell can also be heard joking with air traffic controllers.

At one point, he even asked air traffic controllers: ‘Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?’

The air traffic controller, trying to keep him on side, replied ‘you know, I think they would give you a job doing anything if you could pull this off’, to which Russell replied: ‘Yeah right! Nah, I’m a white guy.’

Air traffic controllers can also be heard begging Russell to land the plane and try to give him directions to a runway where he can put the plane down in one piece.

‘There is the runway just off your right side in about a mile, do you see that?’ the traffic controller said.

‘Oh those guys will try to rough me up if I try to land there…,’ Russell replied. I think I might mess something up there too. I wouldn’t want to do that. Oh they probably got anti-aircraft.’

He could be seen pushing the plane back onto the taxiway using a tractor before taking off and flying around

He could be seen pushing the plane back onto the taxiway using a tractor before taking off and flying around

Nearby co-workers had absolutely no idea what was going on just feet away on the tarmac

Nearby co-workers had absolutely no idea what was going on just feet away on the tarmac

Russell quickly opens the cabin door and climbs aboard before taxiing out onto the runway

Russell quickly opens the cabin door and climbs aboard before taxiing out onto the runway

Cameras capture the moment Russell takes off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Cameras capture the moment Russell takes off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Despite having no formal flight training, Russell performed various acrobatic tricks including loops and rolls

Despite having no formal flight training, Russell performed various acrobatic tricks including loops and rolls

‘They don’t have any of that stuff, we are just trying to find you a place to land safely,’ the traffic controller replied.

Russell told the air traffic controller he wasn’t “quite ready” to bring the plane down.

‘But holy smokes I need to stop looking at the fuel ‘cos it’s going down quickly,’ he added.

‘OK, Rich, if you could, could you start a left-hand turn and we’ll take you down to the south-east,’ the traffic controller said.

‘This is probably jail time for life, huh?’ Russell replied. ‘I would hope it is for a guy like me.’

While still in the air, Russel is heard telling traffic controllers he is ‘just a broken guy’ before telling them he is preparing for ‘jail time for life’.

Two F-15 fighter jets scrambled from Portland ‘minutes’ after the plane took off to intercept it.

They were unsuccessful, and one hour and 13 minutes after taking off, Russell then intentionally crashed the plane on an island about 30 miles away, killing himself.

At the time, Sheriff Paul Pastor described the incident as ‘a joyride gone terribly wrong’. He said the man ‘did something foolish and may well have paid with his life’.

Witnesses described seeing the aircraft performing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops as the military planes directed it away from highly populated areas.

The FBI said it found no evidence Russell had ever received any flight training but he was familiar with the checklist for starting an airplane having watched instructional videos online.

On the cockpit audio recordings, Russell is heard telling air traffic controllers that he didn’t need that much help controlling the aircraft, because he had played some video games before.

“Although investigators received information regarding Russell’s background, possible stressors, and personal life, no element provided a clear motivation for Russell’s actions,” the report reads.

The Q400 which took off from Seattle-Tacoma Airport b

The crash site at south Puget Sound

These images show the Q400 which took off from Seattle-Tacoma Airport before crashing 30 miles away in south Puget Sound (left, in the air; right, after the crash)

Two F-15 fighter jets scrambled from Portland 'minutes later' to intercept it, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.  Pictured is the plane, top, and one of the F-15s underneath it

Two F-15 fighter jets scrambled from Portland ‘minutes later’ to intercept it, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office. Pictured is the plane, top, and one of the F-15s underneath it

The FBI ruled his death as suicide and said that the incident was not part of any wider criminal activity or terrorism and that Russell acted alone.

Russell was born in Key West, Florida and moved to Alaska as a child.

He met his wife in Oregon in 2010 while they were in school and married one year later. The newlyweds then opened a bakery together, which eventually shut down. They moved to Seattle in 2015.

While living in Seattle, Russell started working for Alaska Airlines with the hopes of working in a management position. He also had dreams of becoming an officer in the military.

His main role as a ground service agent at the airport was to load and unload bags, direct aircraft for takeoff, and de-ice planes in the winter. Horizon Air CEO Gary Beck said he was also a part of the ‘tow team’ and was allowed to tow aircraft.

Russell had passed all background checks and had clearance to be on the ‘secure side’, meaning he was allowed to be around aircraft.

On the day of the crash, witness Royal King told The Seattle Times he was photographing a wedding when he saw the low-flying turboprop being chased by F-15s. He said he didn’t see the crash but saw smoke.

‘It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie,’ he told the newspaper. ‘The smoke lingered. You could still hear the F-15s, which were flying low.’

The airport was shut down for about an hour and a half and flights were suspended as officials dealt with the hijacked plane. Planes already on the runway were ordered to stay in position.

  • For confidential support in the US call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255.
  • For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.
  • For confidential support in Australia call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14.

A map showing Ketron Island, a heavily wooded area inhabited by 24 people, according to the 2000 census

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