FBI Seattle
Public Affairs Specialist Ayn Dietrich-Williams
(206) 622-0460
August 15, 2018

Update on Investigation into Unauthorized Flight

Criminal Investigation is Ongoing into Timeline and Motive

The FBI continues to investigate the unauthorized flight of a Horizon Air Q400 aircraft around 8 p.m. on Friday, August 10, 2018, out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The purpose of any FBI investigation is to determine if a federal crime has occurred, identify perpetrators, and collect evidence. In the course of this investigation, the FBI is working to establish the timeline of the incident and the motive of the individual believed responsible. We will continue to gather and assess evidence before making any assertions.

On Saturday, August 11, the FBI searched an area on the southern third of Ketron Island in Pierce County, Washington, where FBI Evidence Response Team personnel found components of aircraft N449QX on forested, private land.

The FBI located human remains among the aircraft materials and the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office collected the remains for examination. On August 13, 2018, Pierce County identified them as belonging to Richard Russell, 28, of Sumner, Washington. At this time, the FBI is still awaiting results related to the cause of death. The FBI has no reason to believe anyone else was in the aircraft during Friday evening’s flight.

At the scene on Ketron Island, the FBI also recovered the flight data recorder and components of the cockpit voice recorder from aircraft N449QX. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) transported the devices for processing back to its laboratory in Washington, D.C.

While search and wreckage recovery efforts continue, Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is leading further wildfire suppression and monitoring needs.

The FBI is still in the process of interviewing relevant airline and airport personnel and collecting all footage and communications related to the incident. We proceed thoroughly and cannot provide an estimate for how long this process will take. We continue to identify additional individuals with information about the incident and the subject who piloted the plane. Given that this is an ongoing investigation, it would not be appropriate to discuss specific details about information developed thus far.

If we make any observations that are pertinent to our government and private partners, we will provide them for consideration.

The FBI is working with countless partners in our investigation. We are particularly grateful to West Pierce Fire & Rescue, JBLM Fire & Emergency Services, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the Washington State DNR, and other partner fire departments for their exhaustive work to make and keep the scene safe. The help of the NTSB is instrumental in evidence collection and processing, and the Pierce County government facilitated our efforts on Ketron Island. Coordination continues to be truly invaluable with the Federal Aviation Administration and Port of Seattle.