The flight data recorder was recovered from the airplane that was stolen from Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state on Aug. 10.
The man who stole and later crashed the plane was identified by officials as Richard Russell, 29, a local ground service agent who assisted baggage handlers.
Along with the data recorder, officials announced that they’d discovered human remains on the plane.
The National Transportation Security Board is processing the data from the recorder, which the FBI recovered, while the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office is analyzing the remains.
— FBI Seattle (@FBISeattle) August 13, 2018
Russell stole the aircraft, a Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft, around 8 p.m. on Aug. 10.
Two F-15C alert aircraft were quickly dispatched to try to intercept the plane and guide it out over the Pacific Ocean, but Russell crashed in a wooded area on Ketron Island in the southern end of the Puget Sound about an hour after he took off.
A recording of the interaction between Russell and air traffic control shows that Russell was burning through fuel faster than he thought.
He seems to be having a good time and declines to land.
“There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile,” the controller says, referring to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,” the man responded. “This is probably jail time for life, huh?”
“I think I’m going to try to do a barrel roll, and if that goes good I’ll go nose down and call it a night,” he added shortly before crashing.
At one point, he does begin to demonstrate regretfulness.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me,” Rich said in the recording.
“It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it, until now.”
Russell is presumed dead in the crash. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office described him as a “suicidal male.”
His family said in a statement that they were “stunned and heartbroken” over what happened.
“He was a faithful husband, a loving son, and a good friend. A childhood friend remarked that Beebo was loved by everyone because he was kind and gentle to each person he met,” family spokesperson, Mike Mathews said at a press conference. “This is a complete shock to us.”
Experts said what happened indicates the real threat to aviation safety comes from airport and airline workers.
“The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat,” Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and transportation security expert, told the Associated Press.
“Here we have an employee who was vetted to the level to have access to the aircraft and had a skill set proficient enough to take off with that plane.”