Human remains have been discovered on the tiny island off Washington’s Puget Sound where an airline worker crashed an empty passenger plane he hijacked.
Authorities also recovered the flight data recorder and components of the cockpit voice recorder from the wreckage of the Horizon Airlines plane.
The black boxes are now being sent to the National Transportation Safety Board for processing.
While searching the crash site, investigators also located human remains among the aircraft materials. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed the remains belong to Richard Russell, who took the empty Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac Airport.
The black boxes will hopefully give investigators more clues as they try to figure out why Russell flew the plane into the ground.
KIRO 7 spoke with Russell’s friend and former co-worker Robert Reeves who said Russell was a hard worker who loved aviation, but he admits Russell was unhappy with his pay.
“He was getting really stressed about the financial situation he was in. He’s worked at Horizon longer than I did, and he still wasn’t making $15 an hour,” Reeves said.
Reeves said he left Horizon because workers are overworked and underpaid.
“The reason I left is in February of 2016 they were short staffed and they had me run three planes in the same time,” Reeves said. “That’s just not safe.”
Russell echoed those claims in his last conversation with air traffic control.
“Minimum wage, we’ll chalk it up to that. Maybe that will grease some gears with the higher up,” Russell said to air traffic controllers.
Horizon’s parent company, Alaska Airlines, refused to comment on claims of workers being overworked or underpaid.
Investigators have yet to determine whether the crash was deliberate or accidental — but in a 20-minute recorded conversation with an air traffic control agent, Russell said he planned to go “nose down and call it a night.”
He also admitted he had “a few screws loose” and called himself “just a broken guy” who would likely be disappointing the many people who loved him.