The family of a man who died after crashing a stolen plane have said that he was “‘loved by everyone because he was kind and gentle to each person he met.”
The man who stole an empty Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac International Airport before it crashed near Seattle was Richard Russell, a US official said on Saturday.
Authorities said a 29-year-old man used a machine called a pushback tractor to first manoeuvre the aircraft – which had no passengers onboard – so he could board and then take off Friday evening.
Mr Russell – who was nicknamed Beebo – is presumed to have been killed about an hour later when the aircraft crashed into a small island southwest of Seattle.
His devastated family have paid tribute to him in a touching statement.
“We are stunned and heartbroken. It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man.
“He was a faithful husband, a loving son, and a good friend,” the Russell family said in a statement.
“A childhood friend remarked that Beebo was loved by everyone because he was kind and gentle to each person he met.”
They said that is death has been a “complete shock” and the family said their faith is helping them.
“We are devastated by these events and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now.
“Without Him we are hopeless.
“As the voice recordings show Beebo’s intent was not to harm anyone and he was right in saying that there are so many people who loved him.”
The family has also thanked the authorities and Alaskair for their help during the crisis.
Mr Russell could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he was “just a broken guy”.
An air traffic controller called the man Rich, and tried to convince him to land the plane.
He said he was from Wasilla, Alaska, and lived in Sumner, Washington, and was married in 2012.