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The remains of a "suicidal" Horizon Air employee who crashed a stolen passenger plane on an island outside Seattle have been found.
Ground service agent Richard Russell, 29, was seen doing loops and other air stunts in the 76-seat aircraft after staging an unauthorised take-off.
In distressing audio recordings from inside the cockpit, he could be heard describing himself as a "broken guy" who had "a few screws loose I guess".
He was followed by two military jets before crashing on Ketron Island in Puget Sound, along the northwestern coast of Washington state, US.
Today, it emerged that his remains have been discovered at the crash site, along with hundreds of shattered pieces of the downed Q400 turboprop.
The debris, which "doesn’t resemble a plane", reportedly includes the flight data recorder and components of the cockpit voice recorder.
The discovery was made on the wooded island yesterday.
Describing the wreckage, Debra Eckrote of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told CNN: "You couldn’t even tell it was a plane except for some of the bigger sections, like the wing section.
She added: "Even the small sections, most of it doesn’t resemble a plane."
Shocking aerial footage, taken by KING 5, shows emergency crews sifting through the debris on the island, which is covered in trees.
Officials are now set to analyse the aircraft’s "burned" data recorder.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department has said Richard, who was married, was the only person aboard the aircraft and was "suicidal".
In a statement on Saturday, the grieving family of the airline worker, who also went by the name Beebo, spoke of their "complete shock".
They said: "He was a faithful husband, a loving son, and a good friend.
"This is a complete shock to us. We are devastated by these events and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now."
Richard was not known to have had a pilot’s licence, Horizon Air Chief Executive Gary Beck said at a news conference.
It was not clear how he was able to take off and fly as he did.
"There were some maneuvers that were done that were incredible maneuvers with the aircraft," Mr Beck said.
"Commercial aircraft are complex machines.
"They’re not as easy to fly as, say, a Cessna 150, so I don’t know how he achieved the experience that he did."
Speaking to the Seattle Times , a retired Horizon Air operational supervisor said Richard was "quiet guy" who was seemingly well-liked by colleagues.
"I feel really bad for Richard and for his family," Rick Christenson added.
"I hope they can make it through this.”
Richard said he was hoping for a "moment of serenity" after taking off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last night.
He apologised to those who care about him while speaking to air traffic controllers, who were attempting to help him land the aircraft safely.
In the audio recordings, which emerged last week, he said he planned to attempt "a barrel roll" before nose-diving and "calling it a night".
He appeared calm at first and even joked about being offered a job as a pilot if he did manage to land the aircraft safely.
But he said: "I wouldn’t know how to land.
"I wasn’t really planning on landing it."
The sheriff’s office said no passengers were onboard the aircraft.
In a previous Twitter post, it said preliminary information suggested the crash occurred due to "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills".
It was not a terrorist incident, the sheriff’s office added.
In the audio recordings, Richard appeared to become distressed during the conversation after reporting concerns his fuel was running out.
He also told an air traffic controller an engine might have "blown".
"Sorry, my mic came off," he said.
"I threw up a little bit. I’m sorry about this, I hope it doesn’t ruin your day."
He said he felt "kind of lightheaded" and "dizzy".
"Man, the sights went by so fast," he said. "I was thinking, like, I’m going to have this moment of serenity, take in all the sights. There’s a lot of pretty stuff, but I think they’re prettier in a different context."
He made it clear he did not want anyone else to be hurt.
After a male voice on the other end of the radio could be heard saying "he just needs some help controlling his aircraft", Richard replied "Nah".
He added: "I don’t need that much help, I’ve played some video games before. I would like to figure out how to get this cabin altitude…
"I know where the box is… I would like to get some… make it pressurised or something so I’m not so lightheaded."
Richard said he was "gonna land it in a safe kind of manner".
"I think I’m gonna try to do a barrel roll, and if that goes good, I’m just gonna nose down and call it a night," he told the air traffic controller.
He also admitted "there are a lot of people who care about me".
Richard had worked for Horizon Air – a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group – for three and a half years and had clearance to tow planes, Alaska Airlines Chief Executive Brad Tilden said at the news conference.
Mr Tilden said planes of that type do not have doors that lock or ignition keys like cars.
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"The setup in aviation in America is we secure the airfield and then we have the mindset that we have employees that are credentialed and authorized to be there," he said, adding that the airline was working with authorities to investigate.
The FBI is leading the probe, which also includes the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"We are going to be thorough, which means taking the time needed to scour the area, delve into the background of the individual believed responsible, and review every aspect of this incident with all appropriate public & private partners," the FBI said in a statement.
Employees in the tow team are said to be trained how to use some plane systems – like the hydraulics, radios and auxiliary power unit,
According to a post on his blog around two years ago, Richard was born in Key West, Florida, but moved to Wasilla, Alaska, when he was seven.
In 2010, he met his "incredible" wife Hannah in Oregon. They tied the knot a year later before opening a bakery together.
However, they apparently decided to sell the bakery and move in 2015 "because we were both so far removed from our families".
Richard wrote: "Failing to convince Hannah of Alaska’s greatness, we settled on Sumner because of its close proximity to her family.
"I, meanwhile, obtained a job working for Horizon Airlines (partnered with Alaska Airlines) so I’m able to fly to Alaska at my leisure.
"In this season of life we enjoy exploring as much as possible, whether its a day (or so) trip to one of Alaska Airline’s destinations, or visiting a new area of Washington."
He added: "Once I earn my Bachelors in Social Sciences I will either seek a management position where I’m at now, or possibly join the military as an officer."
His blog features pictures of him and Hannah at various locations.
In a statement on Saturday, Mr Tilden said Alaska Airlines was working to find out everything it possibly can about the incident.
He said: “There was an incident late yesterday involving the unauthorized operation of one of our aircraft that took off from Sea-Tac around 8 p.m.
“We are still gathering facts, but at this point we understand there was only one person aboard, an employee of Horizon Air, who was operating the aircraft.
"I want to share how incredibly sad all of us at Alaska are about this incident. Our heart is heavy for the family and friends of the person involved."
He added: “We’re working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened, working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board. We are giving those investigators our full support and cooperation.
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“With these investigations underway, our focus will remain on supporting the family of the individual involved, the broader Alaska and Horizon family, and our communities and guests."
It remains unclear how Richard was able to taxi the plane on a runway and take off without authorisation. Video footage on social media showed a large plane flying above the Seattle area with an F-15 following it.
"Okay this insane. A pilot on the plane in front of us just went rogue and took off on an empty plane bypassing orders from the tower," tweeted Ben Schaechter, a passenger on a plane waiting to take off before the incident.
Ketron Island is a sparsely populated island 25 miles southwest of the airport.
The Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplane is designed for shorter-distance flights and can seat 76 passengers, Alaska Air said on its website.
Normal operations have resumed at the airfield.
If you need to speak to someone, Samaritans are available 24/7 by calling 116 123 or by emailing [email protected]
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