SEATAC, Wash. – It was a shocking scene above the Puget Sound, as Horizon Airlines employee Richard Russell stole and flew a turboprop from Sea-Tac Airport while air traffic tried to talk him down.
“Congratulations, you did that, now let’s try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground,” air traffic said.
“Alright, damn it, I don’t know man, I don’t want to,” Russell replied. “I was kind of hoping that would be it, you know?”
Fighter jets closely followed, as Russell flew circles and did tricks for more than an hour.
“So, I’m not taking you to any jets, I’m actually keeping you away from aircrafts that are trying to land at SeaTac,” air traffic added.
“Oh okay, yeah, yeah I don’t want to screw that,” Russell replied.
Onlooker John Waldron saw the flight unfold and took a video of it.
WATCH: “I honestly thought it was an airshow practice or military exercise, maybe,” John Waldron said.
"Then he came straight at me and I’m thinking I’m gonna have to get out of here because if he doesn’t stop this isn’t going to be good,” Waldron added.
At 8:47 p.m., the 29-year-old from Pierce County crashed into a field on Ketron Island and died. No one else was hurt.
“Very unusual, it’s not like we get this every day,” National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said.
The FBI and the NTSB are investigating the incident. They took a ferry to the crash site this morning, looking for flight data and the cockpit recorder.
“He might have been talking to himself in the cockpit,” NTSB said.
One thing investigators don’t know is how Russel, who was a ground service agent for Horizon Air, managed these types of maneuvers in a Q400 airplane.
“To our knowledge, he didn’t have a pilot’s license,” a member said from the press conference this morning. “To be honest with you, commercial aircrafts are complex machines. I don’t know how he achieved the experience he did.”
The dramatic flight many are still processing is now followed by a close investigation.
“Knowing what I know now, it’s extremely heart wrenching and sad,” Waldron said. “Knowing I recorded the last moments of somebody’s life.”
Now, fire crews are dealing with a two-acre fire on Ketron Island that was caused by the crash.