LA PUSH, Wash. — An investigation remains underway after deputies say a small plane was stolen in Jefferson County and crashed near La Push on Aug. 19. The suspect was pulled from the wreckage nearly 12 hours later by a Navy rescue team and flown to Harborview Medical Center where he died Wednesday.
Deputies said they received a report on Aug. 18 of a suspicious person trying to rent a plane at Jefferson County International Airport to fly to Astoria, Oregon; however, the person couldn’t show a pilot’s license or insurance after being asked.
Investigators say the suspect, identified as 59-year-old Richard Jordal, was then referred to Tailspin Tommy’s, another plane rental business at the airport.
“When I found out he took a plane and I saw him in the video camera; it’s like an elevator going down,” said Nataliya Yeshyrina, who owns Tailspin Tommy’s with her husband. She described Jordal as eager to get on a plane.
Yeshyrina said she spoke with Jordal for nearly an hour on Aug. 18, but ultimately did not authorize the rental given he did not have the proper documents. There is no pilot’s license registered to Jordal’s name in the FAA database.
Deputies say surveillance video shows Jordal later entering Tailspin Tommy’s office where deputies believe he stole the Cessna’s keys. Investigators were notified of the missing plane Tuesday evening.
Yeshyrina said Jordal fueled up before taking off and described watching the plane’s erratic flying with her husband on the radar.
“Altitude would change dramatically from 5,000 feet to 2,000,” said Yeshyrina. “Up and done and then doing loops and doing twirls.”
Deputies said the plane’s GPS showed it was flying over the national park and the GPS transmissions quit about 20 miles north of Hoquiam.
“He could’ve [brought] a lot of damage crashing into somebody’s house,” said Yeshyrina.
Investigators said at about 10:30 p.m., a person reported a possible plane crash near La Push.
When investigators arrived, they attempted to search the area but couldn’t find the crash in the heavily forested area.
“We presume at this point that he was trying to land at the Quillayute Airport,” said Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Brett Anglin. Deputies say it’s not clear why Jordal decided to fly away from Oregon, where he reportedly wanted to travel.
On the morning of Aug. 20, deputies say a helicopter crew with the U.S. Navy located the stolen plane and the injured pilot who was unconscious.
The investigation remains ongoing with the FBI working with the National Park Service to determine if Jordal will face any federal charges.