A man who stole an empty passenger plane from Seattle airport and then crashed it was an airline worker with full credentials, authorities say.
The 29-year-old had worked for Horizon Air for more than three years, towing and tidying aircraft and loading bags, BBC said.
The man, named by United States media as Richard Russell, took off late on Friday, forcing the airport to close while two fighter jets gave chase.
After making “incredible manoeuvres”, he crashed the plane and was killed.
The flight lasted 90 minutes and the crash site is on Ketron Island, a sparsely populated area in Puget Sound.
“At this time, we believe he was the only one in the aircraft but of course, we haven’t confirmed that at the crash site,” said Jay Tabb, chief of the FBI’s Seattle division.
Transcripts of his conversation with air traffic control reveal a man who appears surprised about his feat, who is unclear as to the full operations of the plane, who has no intention to hurt anyone and who ultimately apologises to his loved ones, saying he is “just a broken guy”.
The airline worker, whose nickname was Beebo, has not yet been formally named as the pilot of the plane but he has been identified as such by his family and by US media.
In a statement, his family said they were “stunned and heartbroken”.
“It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man,” the statement said.
“He was a faithful husband, a loving son and a good friend.”
According to an online blog, Mr Russell lived in Sumner, Washington. He was born in Key West, Florida, and moved to Wasilla, Alaska, when he was seven years old.
His profile tells of how he met his wife in Oregon in 2010 and says they ran a bakery together there for three years before moving to Washington to be closer to her family.
Mr Russell was active in the local Christian youth ministry, often working with troubled children.
He also writes about his job with Horizon Airlines, saying he is “able to fly to Alaska at my leisure”.
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