Crash victims "were all family," their loved ones say
— Sara Jean Green — Cara Solomon and Craig Welch — Sanjay Bhatt — Eric Pryne ...
Philip Kibler, 46, Troy, NY
Philip Kibler was making his last flight of the season before heading home to the East Coast to be with family.
The 10-year veteran pilot had agreed to take a group of friends to a weekend skydiving event in Boise before slowly traveling to New York on a cross-country fly-fishing trip.
While family members often quipped with Kibler about the dangers of flying, they knew the reality of working with small planes.
"But we also knew his desire to fly was a life-affirming event," said younger brother Bill Kibler. "Flying was Phil's thing."
For the 46-year-old, there'd always been that desire to fly, but it was perhaps a non-traditional path that eventually led to the cockpit. With a doctorate in microbiology and an undergraduate degree in oceanography, Kibler took a job with a pharmaceutical company in Montreal, where he worked before tiring of the industry.
What he really wanted was to learn how to fly and participate in scientific research. He earned both opportunities, working on his pilot license and then eventually flying scientists over the Atlantic Ocean to study whale migration patterns.
But the lure of the Northwest eventually drew him away from his home on the East Coast, and flying became his sole occupation. It was here that he first came across the skydiving community.
"He was a very good pilot and operated an aircraft safely," said Fred Sand, owner of Skydive Lost Prairie near Kalispell, Mont., where Kibler worked during the summer of 2006. "Everyone liked him, and you felt comfortable when he was flying."
Kibler made his way to Washington, where he spent this past summer working for Skydive Snohomish, piloting skydiving flights at Harvey Field. The local skydivers there became acquainted with Kibler during after-hours forays into Snohomish taverns, said Ryan Shipley, a Lake Stevens skydiver who often flew with Kibler. They grew to trust him as a pilot.
As the summer came to an end, Kibler had mused about his next career step, tossing around ideas such as applying for a job with Federal Express.
Bill Kibler said he exchanged e-mails with his brother just days before the weekend flight.
"He mentioned this was the last flight for the season and was heading home," Bill Kibler said. "At the time, I didn't think much about it."
But despite Kibler's death, Bill Kibler said his older brother led a very lucky life.
"My brother was able to do what he absolutely loved doing," Bill Kibler said. "He was able to pursue his passion and get paid to do it. Not a lot of people get that opportunity."
— Christopher Schwarzen
Andy Smith, 20, Lake Stevens
Andy Smith was the kind of kid who could take an engine apart and put it back together — without the help of a manual.
The 20-year-old Lake Stevens man, who for the last couple years interned at Seattle's Victoria Clipper with the goal of becoming a marine mechanic, recently built his own motorscooter that could go 40 mph. He and a friend were getting ready to test-drive another invention, a go-kart fitted with a turbine engine Smith built himself.
"He's a big grease monkey," said Smith's girlfriend, Julianne Hezlep, a Lake Stevens native who is now a freshman at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.
Smith also loved the "natural high" that came with skydiving and planned on getting his pilot's license next summer, said Hezlep, who returned to her parents' home Monday night after learning that Smith and nine others had perished in a plane crash near White Pass.
"He is fearless. He embraces adrenaline and embraces natural highs, and loves to live life on the edge. He loves that edge, loves tickling that edge," Hezlep, 18, said tearfully.
Hezlep spent the weekend with Smith and his fellow skydivers and watched their Cessna 208 take off from an Idaho airfield at 6 p.m. Sunday. Their pilot had delayed takeoff for four hours because of a storm in the Cascades, and Hezlep said she begged her boyfriend to stay an extra day.
"I didn't want Andy to get on that plane — I just had a feeling the plane wasn't going to make it, wasn't going to land," she said. But Smith said he needed to get back for work, promising to call when he touched down.
"I probably left a thousand messages and I never got that phone call he promised me," Hezlep said.
Smith is survived by his parents, an older sister and his identical twin brother, Alex, she said.
His family could not be reached.
"He's an extrovert times three. He loves to talk and tell stories ... and his head was so packed full of knowledge," Hezlep said of Smith, who was a senior when she was a freshman at Lake Stevens High School.
The two became friends but didn't start dating until last year. They were talking about marriage, and Smith had started saving up for a down-payment on a house, Hezlep said.
"I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, I wanted to grow old with him, I loved him that much," she said.
Darrell Bryan, the vice president and general manager at Victoria Clipper, said Smith's death has impacted everyone who works for the small company.
"Andy was dearly loved by everyone he worked with... There wasn't a person he encountered who didn't love him around here. He was full of life," Bryan said.
— Sara Jean Green
Casey Craig, 30, Bothell
Casey Craig, a veteran of more than 600 jumps, hosted regular parties for fellow jumpers and "lived life out loud," his friends and family said.
"I want to make sure people know he didn't die skydiving — it was a plane crash," said his mother, Wanda Craig. "There are people who think they could have jumped while the plane was going down. That's just not possible."
She said her son was introduced to the sport by his older brother, Kelly. Kelly Craig, 34, told KING-TV he'd wanted to go to Idaho to jump with his brother and other friends, but had had to work. Of the skydiving group, he said, "they were all family."
Like his mother, Kelly Craig emphasized his brother wasn't killed skydiving. He called the sport "an educated risk."
"It's not as safe as staying in bed," he told KING-TV, "but it's not what you think it is until you go and try it."
On his Web page on Myspace.com, Casey Craig, 30, described himself as "a self-employed carpet installer that loves to skydive if I can ever find time and if it's ever sunny in Seattle." He listed his interests as "skydiving, snowboarding, construction of any kind — I LOVE TO BUILD."
He said he was a 1995 graduate of Inglemoor High in Kenmore, where he was on the wrestling and track teams.
Posts from friends to Craig's MySpace page started as concerned and hopeful early Monday night but turned mournful and reflective after the plane wreckage was found.
"I want you to come back safe," one friend wrote Monday afternoon.
"I miss you already," another wrote two hours later. "Blue skies forever."
At the rescue scene today, Craig's roommate, who did not want to give her name, said, "He lived life loud. He did things his own way.
"I lost 10 friends today," the roommate said. "All of those people on the plane, they were my family. They all lived life to the fullest and took care of each other."
— Eric Pryne and Craig Welch
Hollie Rasberry, 24, Bellingham
If there was fun to be had, Hollie Rasberry was never far behind.
An intrepid adventurer at the tender age of 24, Rasberry could turn a Friday night bowling session into a laugh riot, or a bull session after work into a memorable evening, her friends recalled.
Today, as her co-workers at Billy McHale's Restaurant in Bellingham pored through a shoe box filled with pictures of Rasberry, they noticed that there was not a single one in which she wasn't smiling or making a goofy face.
"She was always really positive. Always out for fun," said McHale's owner, Kristy Knopp, who hired Rasberry 4 ½ years ago when the young woman moved from Wenatchee to Bellingham for a change of pace.
"I do remember the first time I met her," Knopp said. "She introduced herself and said, 'Rasberry — without the 'p.'"
Passionate about the outdoors, Rasberry fell in love with skydiving last year when she and her boyfriend took their first jump on the Fourth of July in Las Vegas.
Not even a chute malfunction on her second dive — she was forced to use the backup — dissuaded her from free-falling every chance she got, typically once every week to 10 days, Knopp said. "Honestly, skydiving is all she talked about."
Rasberry grew up the middle child of three girls in Wenatchee.
At a news conference at the rescue site today, broadcast by Northwest NewsChannel 8, her older sister sobbed as she displayed a photo of Hollie. "She was wonderful."
Last spring, Rasberry began taking classes at Whatcom Community College, and was on track for an associate of arts and sciences degree, according to the college's admissions office.
When Knopp last saw her, Rasberry was preparing for the trip. "She was so ridiculously giddy to go."
— Susan Kelleher
Michelle Barker, 22, Kirkland
Michelle Barker took her first dive on her 18th birthday, said her stepfather, Rich Williams of Boise.
"We didn't know how much it would take over her life," he said from the rescue scene Tuesday. "After skydiving, we never saw her; she was either in the air or on the jump zone.
"Michelle was her own person, she wasn't doing what her mother taught her, not what her dad taught her, just what she wanted to do," he said.
Michelle's mother and grandmother were expecting to pay her a visit this week. She told her mother, "Relax mom, I'm going to see you on Friday."
Kendall Shew, 27, met her several years ago, when they were working at the same record and video store in Boise. They became fast friends. Barker had this silly streak he loved; she would carry on entire conversations in the character of an imaginary sloth with a lisp.
"I think I've laughed more times than I've cried, thinking about her," said Shew.
Barker tried a range of jobs in the time Shew knew her, working at a hospital, and a wood products manufacturer. At one point, in 2003, she spent a semester at Boise State University. Then she found skydiving.
Barker always liked sports, but the adrenaline rush of skydiving was something else altogether. She began working at Star Skydiving Center, Shew said, and found a strong community there. She moved to the Seattle area last spring, he said, to be with some of her skydiving friends.
"It was her discovery time of life," Shew said.
On her MySpace page, below a photograph of her smiling, standing beside a plane, Barker attached a quote:
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"
— Cara Solomon and Craig Welch
Landon Atkin, 20, Maltby
At the home where Landon Atkin, 20, grew up, about two miles south of his job at Harvey Airfield, family, friends and neighbors came and went throughout the day today, sobbing, embracing and sharing stories.
The Atkin family moved to the Maltby area about 20 years ago, said Landon's sister, Taisha Atkin, 23, when her father, Calvin Atkin, transferred to the area, where he now works for Boeing.
Landon Atkin grew up there, in a close community on a dead-end street, where everyone knew everyone else.
In later years, Landon threw himself into life with gusto, his sister continued, starting a rock band named Rumor Has It. Neighbors recalled how Landon had dutifully approached them, asking everyone if they minded if the band practiced in the family garage.
"He was passionate about his music. He did shows and everything. He really loved it," said Taisha Atkin.
Yet he had a fearless side. The family enjoys cliff-diving, she explained.
After graduation, Landon began attending community colleges, and most recently had been at Cascadia Community College in Bothell.
But a transforming moment in his life came little more than a year ago, Taisha Atkin said, when he made his first parachute jump, on a whim.
"He and his best friend, they just got it in their heads one day," his sister said. "I went up there to watch it. I was scared out of my mind."
But Landon loved it.
He started working at a Harvey Field skydiving business, packing parachutes, and by last weekend, he'd made over 100 jumps and changed his college studies to move toward a career as a pilot.
Taisha said she last talked to her brother over the weekend, when he called home from his Idaho trip.
"He called me when he was over there, he said he was having an amazing time," she said.
"He was definitely doing something with his life. It wasn't his time to go," said Ryan Johnson, who moved from California six months ago to skydive in Snohomish. He met Landon there.
After a day of skydiving, Johnson said, everyone in the group would go to a Snohomish restaurant to share the events of the day and their love of the sport.
"They're phenomenal people," he said. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I'm like them. We're all thrill-seekers.
"Being a mile or two up there brings a whole new view. All the chaos and calamity down here, you don't see it up there," he said.
That feeling of a sense of loss deeply affecting the community was echoed by Elaine Harvey, operator of Harvey Field, where the skydivers were based.
"It's incomprehensible, the loss," she said. "We're still in shock. I'm feeling the pain and hurt. This has struck the core of the community. We're going to pull together and get through it."
— Peyton Whitely
Cecil Elsner, 20, Lake Stevens
Cecil Elsner lived for skiing and skydiving.
The Western Washington University student came from a sports-loving, tight-knit family.
"We're all devastated," said his aunt, Francine Long, whose family owns a ski school at Stevens Pass.
Friends of Elsner, 20, mourned his loss by posting comments to his Facebook and MySpace web pages. Their messages offered a glimpse of a fun-loving athlete:
"I was looking forward to having you with me on the plane as a fellow tandem instructor," wrote one friend. "This world needs more people like you. You'll be in my heart forever."
And another: "... you helped me fly, your views on life impacted mine, fooseball wont be the same, you became one of my best friends and I will miss you."
For his MySpace web page, Elsner used a skydiving photo as the backdrop. He didn't care for television, but was well read, listing more than a dozen books he liked, from "East of Eden" to "Upside Down" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
On his blog, he mourned the selfish behaviors of modern society and lamented that the United States had become hated by people around the world.
"How you act and interact in this world can either give life or death to what you are a part of," he wrote.
— Sanjay Bhatt
Jeff Ross, 28, Snohomish
Ross had begun skydiving a little over a year ago. He took to it with a passion — so much so that he was pursuing his dream of one day becoming a licensed skydiving instructor.
His uncle, Doug Brewer, said Ross "regarded his friends at the drop zone as his family, and would do anything for both friends and family."
At Skydive Snohomish, Ross, 28, was among those who packed parachutes.
It's a skill to pack a parachute just right, so it will inflate slowly for a smooth, soft sensation, said Ryan Shipley, a Lake Stevens skydiver.
"Something that sends chills, my rig is packed right now and it was packed by Jeff," Shipley said. "So whenever that rig opens, I'll know it was packed by Jeff."
— Janet I. Tu and Diane Brooks
Ralph Abdo, 27, Issaquah
A program manager at Microsoft, Ralph Abdo took up skydiving just this past summer, said Darrin Hatakeda, Abdo's Microsoft colleague and former boss.
Windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge was a passion. Tina Brake, Abdo's Issaquah neighbor, said he broke his foot earlier this year and was crestfallen when the injury kept him off the river. "He was very outdoorsy, very active — always doing something interesting," Brake said.
Abdo and his girlfriend had moved into the Klahanie neighborhood just about a year ago, Brake added.
Abdo's profile on the LinkedIn business-networking Web site says he attended McGill University in Montreal, and began working for Microsoft in 2002. He worked in the Office unit there, and is listed as an inventor on several company patents or patent applications.
— Eric Pryne
Bryan Jones, 34
Within the area's small fraternity of skydivers, Bryan Jones was in an even smaller club of canopy pilots — "swoopers" with small parachutes who hurtle through obstacle courses at high speeds close to the ground.
The 34-year-old systems engineer at Microsoft traveled the region with fellow canopy pilots putting on swooping competitions — an activity that's gained recent popularity among skydivers.
"Brian was a good guy; I've jumped with him," said Charlie Markin, treasurer of Seattle Skydivers. "He was quiet, the kind of guy you listened to when he spoke, because you knew it was something worth hearing."
Jones, last year's president of Seattle Skydivers, was a month shy of celebrating his 7-year anniversary at Microsoft.
— Lornet Turnbull
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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