Grounds Service Agent Hijacks Alaska Airlines Jet for Hour-Long Joyride before Crashing on Island

Published August 13th, 2018 - 03:00 GMT
Richard Russell (Twitter)
Richard Russell (Twitter)

The final YouTube video posted by a Seattle plane hijacker depicts a happily married man with a monotonous job that's only silver lining was the travel opportunities it afforded him.

Richard Russell has been revealed to be the 29-year-old who stole an Alaska Airlines jet from the Seattle-Tacoma Airport and took it for an hour-long joyride before crashing on an island in a ball of flames on Friday evening.

A video posted to Russell's amateur travel blog in December 2017 provides an intimate view into his life as a grounds service agent for Horizon Airlines, a job that consisted primarily of loading and unloading luggage, paying only $13.75 per hour.

'Hi, I'm Beebo Russell and I'm a grounds service agent. That means, I lift a lot of bags. Like, a lot of bags. So many bags,' he narrates over back-to-back clips of suitcases being loaded on and off of airplanes as a lighthearted tune plays in the background.

'Look at all them bags. Ooh, a purple one,' he says cheekily.



After making the point about the monotony of Russell's job through several drawn-out luggage clips, the video flashes a selfie of the 29-year-old working in the rain, followed by footage of a storm soaking the Sea-Tac tarmac.

'I usually have to work outside in this,' Russell says.

'But, it allows me to do some pretty cool things, too.'

The second half of the two-minute video is devoted to Russell's travels, featuring photos and videos from his different trips around the world.

Several of his adventures were in his wife's home state of Alaska, including a plane tour of the Misty Fjords in Ketchikan and hiking trips at Hatcher Pass in Palmer and Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.

He also shows off clips from a ski trip at Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint, Idaho, and a hiking trip at Precipice Trail in Maine's Acadia National Park.

Outside of the US, one of Russell's favorite locations appears to be France, where he'd toured everywhere from Alsace to Sisteron to the Lavender Field in Valensole.

Other international experiences shown in the video included a hurling match in Dublin, Ireland, and a guys' weekend at Chichen Itza in Mexico.

Russell wraps up the video with several photos at gatherings with friends and family, saying: 'Most importantly, I get to visit those I love most.'

Russell met his wife in Oregon in 2010 while they were in high school and the couple moved to Seattle in 2015.

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

On Friday night around 8pm local time the 29-year-old stole a 76-seater Horizon Air turboprop Q400 from a maintenance area and took to the skies, despite not having any apparent flying experience.

While he was in the air, Russell described himself to air traffic controllers as 'just a broken guy'.

'This is probably jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me,' he says in a video released by authorities.

At one point he joking asked: 'Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?'

A 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 Rich said: 'Yeah right! Nah, I’m a white guy.'

Two F-15 fighter jets scrambled from Portland 'minutes' after the plane took off to intercept it, according to Pierce County Sheriff's Office.

Witnesses described seeing the aircraft performing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops as the military planes directed it away from highly-populated areas and towards Ketron Island, where it crashed into a ball of flame.

Sheriff Paul Pastor confirmed the incident was 'not terrorist related' and described it as 'a joyride gone terribly wrong'.

In a statement just before midnight, Alaska Airlines - an affiliate of Horizon - said a ground service agent took an out-of-service plane without clearance. Part of a ground service agents job is to direct and de-ice planes, as well as managing luggage.

'If you're physically strong, enjoy working outdoors, have an impeccable work ethic, and love to travel, this could be the best job you've ever had, maybe even a lifelong career,' a job posting for the position says.


This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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