On Friday night, a 29-year-old Alaska Airlines luggage handler held the attention of the Pacific Northwest by stealing an empty commercial airplane from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, flying it in loops and dives along the Puget Sound at sunset, then crashing to his death on an island.
The motives of that man, Richard "Beebo" Russell, remain unclear. Officials described him as suicidal and his flight as "a joy ride gone terribly wrong." In his rambling conversations with air traffic control, he expressed surprise at what he had done.
"Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess," he said. "Never really knew it until now."
Details are emerging today about Russell's background. Among them: For more than three years, in a period stretching from 2011 to 2015, he helped his wife run a bakery along the Oregon coast, in the town of North Bend.
The Coos Bay World has compiled a roundup of its reports on the shop—Hannah Marie's Bakery—and wire reports on the plane theft and crash.
Friday night's events echoed through Portland, and not just because much of this city seemed to be following the drama on social-media.
Two Oregon National Guard fighter jets were scrambled out of Portland International Airport, possibly to intercept the plane if Russell flew it toward a metropolitan area.
The New York Times described commercial flight from Portland to Seattle—usually an easy hop—sat on the Sea-Tac tarmac after landing, as the airport went into lockdown mode. "On one Alaska Airlines flight from Portland, Ore.," the Times wrote, "passengers were stuck on the tarmac after landing and informed by the pilot that there had been an issue with another plane at the airport, and that gates were backed up with 40 planes waiting."
Russell's conversation with air traffic controllers was by turns manic, teasing and profoundly sad. Much of it was captured by radio scanners and released on the internet within minutes of the crash that killed him.
"Man, the sights went by so fast," he mused, minutes before crashing. "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 they're prettier in a different context."
If you're struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, Multnomah County has counselors who can talk with you at any hour. Call 503-988-4888.