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Police Identify Man Run Over by Airliner

March 13, 1990

PHOENIX (AP) _ Puzzled investigators probing the death of a man who ran into the landing gear of a Boeing 727 jetliner while it accelerated for takeoff say they may never known what brought him onto the runway.

Richard Lee Brown, 40, of Phoenix, died Sunday at Sky Harbor International Airport after he confronted Alaska Airlines’ Flight 608 as it was taking off for Tucson with 33 passengers and a crew of seven.

″He was waving his arms around like he wanted to stop the plane,″ police spokesman Leo Speliopoulos.

The jetliner was moving about 100 mph and might have gone out of control had pilot Michael Townsend tried to take evasive action, airline spokesman Lou Cancelmi said.

Although the plane had used up 2,000 feet of runway, Townsend was able to abort the takeoff and stop the plane before it reached barriers at the end of the asphalt, Cancelmi said.

″The captain said it was either the plane or him,″ said a passenger, the Rev. Richard Pollard of Anchorage, Alaska.

After the airliner returned to the terminal, Brown’s body was found tangled in the landing gear.

Cancelmi said the crew was shaken by the incident. ″This is a tragedy - one we’re inexperienced with,″ he said.

Cancelmi, based in the airline’s Seattle office, said crew members spent Sunday night in Phoenix talking to police and Federal Aviation Administration officials and flew back to Seattle on Monday afternoon.

And nobody knows what Brown was doing on the runway.

″We could postulate it was a suicide, but it could also have been a poor guy taking a shortcut,″ said airport spokesman Steve Bigg. ″We simply don’t know.″

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