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The Latest: Plane Stolen By Airline Ground Service Agent

SEATAC, Wash. (AP) - 2:41 p.m.

The man who stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport was Richard Russell, a U.S. official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press.

The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Authorities on Saturday said a 29-year-old man used a machine called a pushback tractor to first maneuver the aircraft so he could board and then take off Friday evening. He was presumably killed about an hour later when the aircraft crashed into a small island southwest of Seattle.

The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is “just a broken guy.” An air traffic controller called the man “Rich,” and tried to convince the man to land the airplane.

Russell went by “Beebo” on social media, and on his Facebook page, which had limited public access. He said he was from Wasilla, Alaska, and lived in Sumner, Washington, and was married in 2012.

In a humorous YouTube video he posted last year, he talked about his job and included videos and photos of his various travels.

“I lift a lot of bags. Like a lot of bags. So many bags,” he said.

    
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11:10 p.m.
    
An airline mechanic who stole a Horizon Air plane from a Seattle airport told air traffic controllers that he was a "broken guy" but also joked about whether the airline would hire him as a pilot if he landed safely.

The man, who was addressed as "Rich" in audio recordings with air traffic controllers, said he didn't want to land at a nearby military base.

He told them, "Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there."

During another part of the exchange, the man said he was concerned he was going to run low on fuel.

Later, he said he's "got a lot of people that care about me."

He said he didn't want to disappoint them but that he was "just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess."
    
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10:15 p.m.
    
Sheriff's officials say a man who stole an Alaska Airlines plane from an airport in Washington state was "suicidal" and there is no connection to terrorism.

Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, says on Twitter Friday night that a 29-year-old airline mechanic stole the Horizon Air Q400 from Sea-Tac International Airport.

Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed near Ketron Island. There were no passengers aboard.

The sheriff's department said they were working to conduct a background investigation on the man, whose name was not immediately released.

The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he's "got a lot of people that care about me" and that he is "just a broken guy."
    
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9:50 p.m.
    
Officials at Sea-Tac International Airport say an Alaska Airlines plane that was stolen by an airline employee and has crashed in Washington state.

Airport officials say in a tweet Friday night that an airline employee "conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers."

Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft near the airport.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter that preliminary information suggested that a mechanic had stolen the aircraft. The tweet said the crash may have been caused by the mechanic "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills."

A Coast Guard spokeswoman said the agency was responding to a report of a smoke plume and possible plane crash. Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said a 45-foot vessel was headed to the scene.
    
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9:37 p.m.
    
Alaska Airlines says there was an "unauthorized take-off" of an airplane and witnesses reported a jet being chased by military planes near Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state.

The airline tells The Associated Press that the plane was a Horizon Air Q400 and it believed no passengers were on board.

No other information was immediately available.

Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the U.S. West.

The Q400 ix a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.


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