Family shocked, devastated over Seattle plane theft and crash

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport the day after Horizon Air ground crew member Richard Russell took a plane from the airport in Seattle, Washington on August 11, 2018.
(Image credit: Jason Redmond/Getty Images)

The airline employee who stole and fatally crashed an empty plane at the Seattle airport late Friday has been identified as Richard Russell, 29. His family has described him as "a faithful husband, a loving son, and a good friend," expressing total shock at his decision to take the plane.

"We are devastated by these events, and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now," said a statement from the family. "Without him, we would be hopeless." Russell was reportedly suicidal, and while speaking with an air traffic controller who was trying to persuade him to land the plane described himself as a "broken guy" with "a few screws loose."

Russell had worked for the airline for several years. He had permission to be in the area where the plane was parked but should not have been on the plane alone. "If you're going to access the aircraft ... you make sure that you check with someone else, and that someone else [will confirm] that ... you have the right authority to get onto that aircraft," explained CNN safety analyst David Soucie. Security protocols are being reviewed following the crash.

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.