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Remains of airline worker who stole, crashed plane found on island in Puget Sound

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 8/13/2018

© AFP/Getty Images The remains of an airline worker who stole and crashed a passenger plane have been found on an island in Puget Sound, officials say.

Investigators also said Sunday that they have recovered the flight recorder and components of the cockpit voice recorder from the 76-seat Horizon Air Q400 flown by Richard Russell.

Russell swiped the commercial aircraft from Sea-Tac International Airport on Friday and performed some startling acrobatic stunts before going down.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office in Washington confirmed Sunday that Russell died in the fiery wreckage, but investigators are unsure if the crash was deliberate or accidental.

"You couldn't even tell it was a plane except for some of the bigger sections, like the wing section," Debra Eckrote of the NTSB said Sunday, according to CNN. "Even the small sections, most of it doesn't resemble a plane."

Russell, who was 29, flew the plane for 75 minutes before the crash. Observers wondered how, 17 years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, someone can simply take a passenger plane from a major U.S. airport.

He could have inflicted much more damage if he wanted to. Potential targets included tens of thousands of fans assembling at Safeco Field, about 12 miles away, for a sold-out Pearl Jam concert.

As a flight controller tried to convince him to safely land the plane, Russell wondered aloud about whether he had enough fuel to make it to the Olympics, spoke about the view, and said he had a lot of people who cared about him.

He also apologized for what he was doing. He complimented the controller: "You are very calm, collect, poised," he said.

Russell told the controller he "wasn't really planning on landing" and described himself as "just a broken guy."

Investigators say Russell may have been suicidal. A friend who is a former co-worker told TV station KIRO that Russell was not happy with his job.

a plane flying in the sky © JOHN WAULDRON/AFP/Getty Images

"He was getting really stressed about the financial situation he was in," Robert Reeves told the station. "He's worked at Horizon longer than I did, and he still wasn't making $15 an hour."

Russell's responsibilities included towing and pushing aircraft for takeoff and gate approach, de-icing them, and dealing with baggage.

Reeves said he left Horizon in 2016 because "they were short staffed and they had me run three planes in the same time. That's just not safe."

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