Kiwi tourists' caravan hit by possible gunshots while they slept in Queensland

Two New Zealand tourists are unhurt after their caravan was damaged by what police fear was gunfire in central Queensland.

The pair were camped near the Bruce Highway in Rockhampton when they were woken by two loud bangs around 5am (Queensland time) today

Neither was injured but the body of the van was damaged and the windscreen shattered. Queensland Police are now investigating if gunshots were the cause.

A caravan was struck by a bullet in central in Cromwell.
Caravan (File) Source:

'I'm going to try to do a barrel roll' - US plane thief confirmed dead after crash while investigators ponder what motivated him

He cracked jokes, complimented the professional demeanor of an air traffic controller and apologised for making a fuss.

This undated image posted to Richard Russell's YouTube channel shows Russell, an airline ground agent. Investigators are piecing together how Russell stole an empty commercial airplane, took off from Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle, and crashed into a small island in the Puget Sound in Washington. (Richard Russell/YouTube via AP)
This undated image posted to Richard Russell's YouTube channel shows Russell, an airline ground agent. Source: Associated Press

But the friendly tone of a 29-year-old airport worker who stole a commercial plane Friday night (Saturday NZT), performing acrobatic stunts before the fatal plunge into a thick island forest, belied his desperate actions.

"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," Richard Russell said from the cockpit, according to a recording of his conversation with the controller.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Sunday (overnight NZT) that Russell had died in the fiery wreckage, but whether the crash was deliberate or accidental was one of several topics remaining for investigators.

Richard Russell’s family described him as “a warm, compassionate man”. Source: Associated Press

Others include how, nearly 17 years after the 9/11 attack, someone can simply take a passenger plane from a major US airport without authorisation.

Tragic as Russell's death was, he could have inflicted vastly more damage had he been so inclined. Potential targets included tens of thousands of fans assembling at Safeco Field, about 19 kilometres away, for a sold-out Pearl Jam concert just as he took off.

"Last night's event is going to push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can ensure this does not happen again at Alaska Air Group or at any other airline," Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, told a news conference.

The plane was a Bombardier Q400, a turboprop that seats 76 people, owned by Horizon Air, part of Alaska Airlines. It had been parked at a cargo and maintenance area for the night after arriving from Victoria, British Columbia, earlier in the day.

Russell, a 3 1/2-year Horizon employee, worked as a ground service agent. His responsibilities included towing and pushing aircraft for takeoff and gate approach, de-icing them, and handling baggage.

Authorities said he used a tractor to rotate the plane 180 degrees, positioning it so that he could taxi toward a runway. They said it's not clear whether he had ever taken flight lessons or used flight simulators, or where he gained the skills to take off. The plane didn't require a key, but it did require buttons and switches to be activated in a particular order.

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His 75-minute flight during the golden twilight took him south and west, toward the Olympic Mountains. As a flight controller tried to persuade him to land, he wondered aloud about whether he had enough fuel to make it to the Olympics, talked of the beautiful view, and said he had a lot of people who cared about him, apologising for what he was doing.

He complimented the controller: "You are very calm, collect, poised," he said.

He said flying was a "blast" and that he didn't need much help: "I've played some video games before."

"You think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?" he joked.

He also told the controller he "wasn't really planning on landing" the aircraft, and he described himself as "just a broken guy."

Authorities sent fighter jets to escort him, and the controller repeatedly tried to direct him to runways. But the plane slammed into tiny Ketron Island, a sparsely populated island southwest of Tacoma.

Russell went by "Beebo" on social media. On his Facebook page, which had limited public access, he said he was from Wasilla, Alaska; lived in Sumner, Washington; and was married in 2012.

In a humorous YouTube video he posted last year, he talked about his job and included videos and photos of his travels.

"I lift a lot of bags. Like a lot of bags. So many bags," he said.

Russell's family said in a statement that they were stunned and heartbroken. They said it's clear Russell didn't intend to harm anyone, and "he was right in saying that there are so many people who loved him."

The man who stole the plane from Seattle airport discussed landing the plane with air traffic control and also apologised to those who care for him. Source: Associated Press


Watch: Wedding carries on as bride wades down the aisle of flooded Philippines church

The Philippines has recently experienced heavy rains and forceful winds due to a southwest monsoon enhanced by nearby tropical storm Yagi.

Roxas Boulevard, a popular local leisure area stretching along Manila Bay in the capital, was close to empty yesterday.

Footage shows heavy rainfall and big waves hitting the seafront walk, which was partly covered in rubbish.

Flash floodings have been reported from many areas in the Philippines - mainly in Central Luzon region which includes the hard-hit Bulacan province - forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

On Saturday, a couple in Bulacan decided to push through with their wedding, despite a flooded church.

The bride and her parents waded down the flooded aisle through murky water up to the barefoot groom who was waiting by the altar.

The bride and her parents walked down the aisle to the barefoot groom waiting at the altar. Source: Associated Press