Man who stole plane was amusing, hardworking, former colleague recalls

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As reported by NBC, in his communications with the air traffic control tower, the man mentions "having a few screws loose" and showed signs of suicidal thoughts.

Pastor said the man "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life". It did not elaborate.

"I mean, I would hope it is, for a guy like me". We're trying to get accurate information about what is actually going on.

"I don't need that much help. I've played some video games before". Russell was referred to as "Rich" by air traffic controllers, and some of his friends referred to him as "Beebo".

"Alright", the man in the airplane responds. "You want me to ride the brakes in the cockpit" or 'Hey, what are you doing?' Nobody did that", said Kelly. "He had to know where he was going and how to get to a runway", added Furois.

Video taken by a bystander showed the passenger airplane making an unlikely upside-down loop, then flying low over Puget Sound before crashing into the sparsely populated Ketron Island in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington. The Q400 is a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.

Gov. Jay Inslee thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling jets and said in a statement "there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident". They pursued the aircraft before it went down on Ketron Island, between Tacoma and Olympia. The jets were armed but did not open fire, North American Aerospace Defence Command spokesman Cameron Hillier said by phone.

It was unclear where he got the skills to perform such manoeuvres, authorities said.

Mr Russell's family said in the statement that the recordings showed he wasn't planning to harm others.

The wooded area is hard to access, and because there are no fire engines on the island, everything has to get to there via ferry, Adams said.

The plane was stolen at around 8 pm (0300 GMT Saturday) and crashed 90 minutes later, officials said.

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A "suicidal" airline mechanic stole an empty plane before flying around an airport then crashing near a small island.

"Everyone was literally frozen in place, muttering about what possibly happened", he said.

"It is highly fragmented", she said of the plane.

It's believed there were no passengers or other crew on board.

It wasn't clear what training, if any, the man had as a pilot.

The FBI's Seattle field office said on Twitter it was working with local, state and federal partners, but it was "too early for us to put out details on the evolving situation". "But could you start a left turn please?"

"Alright (man's name), congratulations, you did that", an air traffic controller can be heard on recording.

"So, (he) had some knowledge but clearly wasn't a commercial pilot". Alaska Airlines said it was in a "maintenance position" and not scheduled for a passenger flight. "We believe he was in uniform", said Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden.

Law enforcement sources confirmed to both The Seattle Times and The New York Times that Russell, who handled baggage and towed aircraft for Horizon Air, was the pilot.

Debra Eckrote, NTSB regional chief, said investigators will focus on recovering the voice-data recorder and flight-data recorder from the wreckage.

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