The freakish incident involving a worker who authorities said was suicidal points to one of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel: airline or airport employees causing mayhem. Airport officials said the airline employee had "conducted an unauthorised takeoff without passengers".
They may have cost him his life, but an airline employee's acrobatics in an empty propeller plane he stole in Seattle drew words of wonder from the head of the company where he'd worked. The aircraft's unpredictable flight pattern terrified onlookers, who got photo and video footage of the plane's ill-fated excursion.
In a statement, his family said his "intent was not to harm anyone", referring to audio recordings of Russell talking to air traffic control during the flight.
A two-acre fire burns early Saturday on the Puget Sound island where the plane crashed.
He told authorities on the ground he "would like to apologize" to people who cared about him.
"It just hurts to hear someone you know, and just hear the pain in their voice", Kaelin said.
Spokesmen for the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration directed inquiries to local authorities. A Facebook page appearing to belong to the man said he was from Wasilla, Alaska, and lived in Sumner, Washington, and was married in 2012.
"I would like to apologise to each and every one of them".
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life".
Law enforcement vehicles are shown, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, at the ferry terminal in Steilacoom, Wash., near where a Coast Guard spokeswoman said the agency was responding to a report of a smoke plume and possible plane crash.
The Seattle Times describes the man as sounding "carefree and wild", while a number of videos on social media show the plane flying over the area in an erratic manner.
Alaska Airlines officials said at a Saturday news conference that the plane's operator and sole occupant was killed in the crash.
"We're working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened", Brad Tilden, chief executive of Alaska Air Group, said in a statement.
Russell, 29, was apparently able to climb into an otherwise empty 76-seater Horizon Air turboprop, take off, and fly for around an hour while pulling off daring aerial maneuvers on Friday-all with military F-15s at his tail.
"The guy didn't know how to fly or intentionally did stunts over Anderson Island, and crashed into Ketron Island", Troyer said.
"It was unfathomable. It was something out of a movie", he told the newspaper.