ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The 29-year-old man who died after crashing a stolen plane in Seattle Friday evening has been identified by family and friends as former Wasilla resident Richard "Beebo" Russell.
Family and friends did not want to appear on camera Saturday but told Channel 2 News that he was an easy-going natural leader with a great sense of humor.
"Beebo was that kid that everyone wants on their team, he was the leader, outgoing, always had a joke for everything," said Gary Howell, the former head track coach at Wasilla High School. “He was that guy you would high-five in the hallway, even if you didn’t know him.”
Family and friends say he played football for Wasilla High and Howell remembers him as a fast full-back he had to recruit for track.
According to a blog created for a college class, Russell met his wife while at school in Oregon. The two opened and ran a bakery together for three years. Family say that the bakery didn’t do well and that it was forced to close.
The two moved to Sumner, Washington where Russell worked for Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Family members say he was ready to leave.
By Saturday afternoon Russell’s mother had traveled to Sumner to comfort his wife, according to family members at her Wasilla home.
"It might seem difficult for those at home to believe as a warm and compassionate man," said family friend Mike Matthews in a statement in front of press. 'It is impossible to encompass who he was in a press release: he was a faithful husband, a loving son and a good friend."
"We are devastated by these events and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now."
Family members and friends were clearly shocked by the events leading up to Russell's presumed death.
“If Beebo can be in pain, anyone can be in pain,” said Howell. “This will raise awareness: There are people out there who will help if they talk, Beebo had thousands of people who would have listened.”
"As the voice recordings show, his intent wasn't to harm anyone," said Matthews. "He was right in saying that there are so many people who have loved him."