BREAKING NEWS COVID-19 cluster found at local Five Guys Full Story
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

'Broken guy' who stole plane was troubled, but 'never really knew it'

As the plane he commandeered soared above picturesque western Washington State flanked by a pair of military...

Posted: Aug 14, 2018 8:23 AM
Updated: Aug 14, 2018 8:23 AM

As the plane he commandeered soared above picturesque western Washington State flanked by a pair of military fighter jets ready to shoot him down, Richard "Beebo" Russell had a moment of self-reflection:

"Just a broken guy," he told an air traffic controller in a now famous recording. "Got a few screws loose, I guess."

Accidents, disasters and safety

Air transportation

Air transportation safety

Aircraft

Airlines

Aviation and aerospace industry

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

North America

Northwestern United States

Safety issues and practices

The Americas

Transportation and warehousing

Travel and tourism

Travel safety and security

United States

Washington (State)

Then the wayward Horizon Airlines ground service agent added, "I never really knew it. Until now."

Indeed, as investigators seek to determine precisely how Russell absconded with the passenger-less plane and crashed it into an island in Puget Sound, killing himself, another question lingers:

Why?

There are no obvious answers, at least not yet.

A group of friends who issued a statement on behalf of Russell's family said they were "stunned and heartbroken" by the act.

The prepared statement, read aloud to reporters, described "Beebo," as Russell was known to friends and family, as having been "loved by everyone because he was kind and gentle to each person he met."

"This is a complete shock to us," the statement said.

Russell's wife, Hannah, did not attend the press conference at which the statement was read, and has made no public comment on the incident.

His social media postings are full of smiling faces and travel shots. They offer no hint of depression, anger or other factors that sometimes precede such cataclysmic events.

Jeremy Kaelin, a former co-worker, said he was shocked as news emerged that the hard-working, good-natured guy he used to joke around with at work was in the cockpit of the stolen plane.

He said it was "heartbreaking" to listen to his voice on the recording of his transmissions back and forth with the air traffic controller.

"You could tell he was in pain," said Kaelin, who worked the night shift with Russell for eight months in 2016 and his since left the airline.

"Did he screw up something bad in his own personal life? I don't know," Kaelin said. "But whatever happened to him, it really messed him up in the head and I feel sorry about that."

A current Horizon employee who worked with Russell agreed that he had shown no signs of trouble prior to Friday's incident. The worker became emotional as he described listening to Russell's voice on the recording because, he said, it was the last memory he would have.

The worker asked not to be named. He said the airline had instructed employees not to speak with the media.

Russell's online postings and news accounts from various stages of his life provide a broad-brushstroke timeline of his 29 years.

According to a bio he posted on a personal blog, he was born in Key West, Florida, and moved to Alaska as a child. He ran track and played football at Wasilla High School.

He met his future wife, Hannah, in Coos Bay, Oregon, in 2010 while both were attending school. The pair married a year later and opened a bakery together, which they ran for three years, according to Russell's blog.

In 2015, they moved to Washington state to be closer to family, and Russell landed a job at Horizon Airlines. In various videos posted online, Russell describes his job, interviews co-workers and talks about enjoying the perks of free travel.

At a press conference over the weekend, officials said Russell passed a background check at the time of his 2015 hiring that reviewed information from the past 10 years. They said such checks are done every two years following an employee's start date and that Horizon officials were unaware of any criminal charges against Russell.

Kaelin and the other Horizon worker who spoke with CNN said they were much less surprised at Russell's ability to commandeer and fly the plane than they were by the fact that he would do so in the first place.

They said flight simulators, YouTube tutorials, and even video games could tell a non-pilot much of what they needed to know in order to start the plane, take off and fly.

"We've all joked about it like, 'hey, let's just go take it for a spin.' But no one ever meant it," Kaelin recalled. "It's like, who would actually commit to doing it?"

West Lafayette
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 87°
Kokomo
Few Clouds
85° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 91°
Rensselaer
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 88°
Fowler
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 88°
Williamsport
Scattered Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 96°
Crawfordsville
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 85°
Frankfort
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 79°
Delphi
Broken Clouds
91° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 93°
Monticello
Broken Clouds
91° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 93°
Logansport
Broken Clouds
91° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 93°
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48201

Reported Deaths: 2693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11624683
Lake5146242
Elkhart328546
Allen2762129
St. Joseph194366
Cass16389
Hamilton1552101
Hendricks1403100
Johnson1278118
Porter72837
Tippecanoe7158
Madison65864
Clark65144
Bartholomew58544
Howard57557
LaPorte57326
Kosciusko5464
Vanderburgh5226
Marshall4924
Noble47828
Jackson4703
LaGrange4708
Hancock44835
Boone44243
Delaware44250
Shelby42525
Floyd37944
Morgan32931
Grant29426
Monroe29428
Montgomery29420
Clinton2892
Dubois2736
Henry26315
White26310
Decatur25032
Lawrence24425
Dearborn23623
Vigo2348
Warrick21429
Harrison21322
Unassigned193193
Greene18832
Miami1822
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
DeKalb1624
Scott1607
Daviess14317
Wayne1386
Orange13623
Steuben1292
Perry1279
Franklin1248
Jasper1212
Ripley1167
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette997
Newton9810
Starke933
Whitley925
Huntington812
Gibson802
Randolph794
Jefferson722
Wells721
Fulton701
Jay680
Washington671
Knox640
Pulaski641
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Benton480
Owen471
Sullivan441
Brown391
Posey390
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Tipton321
Fountain312
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events