The stunning story of a Seattle airport worker who stole a plane and crashed it into an island over the weekend is a deep mystery to the family who loved him, but they're leaning fully on their faith in Christ to carry them through this tragedy.
Richard 'Beebo' Russell was a ground crew worker who reportedly stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport on Friday evening.
Russell is not believed to have had a pilot's license, but he flew the plane for about an hour, performing stunts while being tailed by a fighter jet before the aircraft eventually crashed into a small island southwest of Seattle.
"This is a complete shock to us," the family says in a statement. "We are devastated by these events, and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now."
The shocking theft of the 76-seat plane from the Seattle airport is prompting a nationwide review of how to thwart future insider security threats.
In Russell's case, there were no reports of warning signs – no sign of mental illness or erratic behavior.
Russell, who reportedly met his wife in Campus Crusade for Christ in college, is described by his family as a "faithful husband, a loving son, and a good friend... loved by everyone because he was kind and gentle to each person he met."
Investigators are looking for clues in the chilling audio recording of his conversation with an air-traffic controller, which took place during his 75-minute flight with the stolen plane.
"I've got a lot of people that care about me, and it's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this," he says. "Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it, until now."
In that conversation, Russell complained about being underpaid, and MyNorthwest.com reports a former co-worker says they were overworked at Horizon Air, saying Russell "was one of the hardest working people I met at Horizon."
On the other side, there's also this video blog Russell created in college, talking about the great perk of being able to travel the world because of his airline job. He ends the video project saying, "It evens out in the end."
Russell told the air-traffic controller he didn't plan to land the plane safely but he didn't intend to hurt anyone either. He said he didn't need much help flying because he had played so many video games.
In the aftermath of the mysterious tragedy, the family is trusting in Jesus and asking for prayers.
"We would like to thank the authorities who have been both helpful and respectful, Alaska Air for their resources, the community, his friends and his family for their incredible support and compassion, and Jesus whose steadfast love endures," the family statement says.
"We request that we now be given space to mourn. At this time the family is moving forward with the difficult task of processing our grief. We appreciate your prayers," they conclude.