Suspected Seattle airplane thief was adventurer, bakery owner
Richard Russell, who liked to be called Beebo, was a 29-year-old man living in Sumner, Washington.
The airline worker who stole an empty airplane from a Seattle airport on a flight that ended in his death once ran a bakery with his wife and enjoyed the benefits that came with his job to travel the world, social media posts showed.
Richard Russell, who liked to be called Beebo, was a 29-year-old man living in Sumner, Washington, who was born in Key West, Florida, and moved to Wasilla, Alaska, when he was 7 years old, according to a Web page he set up for a college communications class.
He has not been officially named by authorities, but his family and multiple news media outlets have reported his identity.
Russell worked for Horizon Airlines, a sister carrier of Alaska Airlines as a ground service agent who helped baggage handlers and was part of Horizon’s tow team, which moved planes around on the tarmac. It was a job that gave him the perk of “being able to fly to Alaska at my leisure,” he wrote on the page.
In a video posted on YouTube last December, Russell shows luggage coming off and being loaded onto aircraft, and describes what the life of a ground service agent can entail.
“That means I lift a lot of bags, like a lot of bags, so many bags,” he says, adding, “it allows me to do some pretty cool things, too.”
There are then shots of trips he took, including flying over Alaskan fjords, visiting lavender fields in France, touring in Yucatan, Mexico, and attending a hurling match in Dublin, Ireland.
“It evens out in the end,” he says to end the video.
There was no mention in the social media posts of studying to become a pilot but in some posts he spoke of his Christian religious faith and the possibility of joining the military.
On a SoundCloud site, Russell interviews fellow ground service agents, asking them questions that include: “What was one of your best travel experiences using your flight benefits?”
Authorities say he commandeered an empty Bombardier Q400, 32.61 m long turboprop aircraft on Friday night from a maintenance area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He flew for about an hour, often erratically with attempts at aerial stunts, before crashing on Ketron Island in Puget Sound, about 25 miles (40 km) to the southwest.
He appeared to have acted alone and was suicidal, according to the local sheriff’s department.
His family members said in a statement they were stunned and heartbroken.
“It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man,” the statement said.
Russell’s social media posts often showed him on adventures with his wife, who he said he met in Oregon in 2010.