FBI concludes investigation into stolen Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac Airport
SEATTLE, Wash. – The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Friday that it has completed its investigation into the stolen Horizon Air plane that a man crashed on Ketron Island on Aug. 10.
According to the FBI, evidence indicates Richard Russell, 28, of Sumner, Wash. piloted the aircraft and intentionally crashed the plane into the ground in the Puget Sound area. Investigators say they did not find any other people who were involved in planning or executing the unauthorized flight.
Since Russell died in the crash and there were no co-conspirators, the FBI will not pursue federal charges.
The FBI used information from the National Transportation Safety Board’s review of the aircraft’s flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder in its investigation.
They say in the final minutes before impact, it appears Russell was in control of the plane and that the plane’s descent was intentional.
“If the pilot had wanted to avoid impact with the ground, he had time and energy to pull the column back, raise the nose, and initiate a climb,” the FBI stated in a release.
The voice recorder did not capture any significant sounds besides Russell’s voice communications over the microphone.
Investigators do not believe Russell made any phone calls while in the cockpit or any statements that addressed his motive. They did not find that the theft was related to wider criminal activity or terrorist ideology.
Investigators discovered possible stressors in Russell’s personal life, but they said, “No element provided a clear motivation for Russell’s actions.”
A medical examiner determined Russell died from injuries sustained in the crash and ruled the manner of death as suicide.
FBI investigators say Russell had not violated any security measures or protocols while working for Horizon Air before he stole the plane. He did have knowledge of the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit and tow equipment and maneuvering as part of his job responsibilities.
The FBI said Russell did not receive any formal flight training. But they said he was familiar with the checklist of actions for starting an airplane. Investigators also found internet searches Russell performed for flight instructional videos.