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Originally published October 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 10, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Victims shared a zest for life, adventure

Philip Kibler, 46, Troy, N.Y. Philip Kibler was making his last flight of the season before heading home to the East Coast to be with family.

Philip Kibler, 46, Troy, N.Y.

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.

"We knew flying could be dangerous," said younger brother Bill Kibler. "But flying was Phil's thing."

Kibler, 46, who held a doctoral degree in microbiology, had left his pharmaceutical job in Montreal for the chance to fly in the open air, his brother said. His scientific background led him to pilot whale researchers over the Atlantic Ocean.

But the lure of the Northwest drew him away from the East Coast.

Fred Sand, owner of Skydive Lost Prairie near Kalispell, Mont., where Kibler worked during the summer of 2006, said Kibler was a safe pilot. "You felt comfortable when he was flying."

Kibler, who was single, spent this past summer working for Skydive Snohomish, piloting flights at Harvey Field.

Bill Kibler, who spoke to his brother just days before the weekend flight, said his older brother led a very lucky life.

"My brother was able to do what he absolutely loved doing," he said. "Not a lot of people get that opportunity."

— Christopher Schwarzen

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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.

For the last couple of years, Smith interned at Seattle's Victoria Clipper with the goal of becoming a marine mechanic and recently built his own motor scooter that could go 40 mph. "He's a big grease monkey," said girlfriend Julianne Hezlep of Lake Stevens.

Smith planned to get his pilot's license next summer, Hezlep said.

"He embraces adrenaline and embraces natural highs, and loves to live life on the edge. He loves that edge, loves tickling that edge," said Hezlep, 18.

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.

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.

— Sara Jean Green

Hollie Rasberry, 24, Bellingham

If there was fun to be had, Hollie Rasberry was never far away.

Already an intrepid adventurer at age 24, Rasberry could turn even a Friday night bowling session into a laugh riot.

Tuesday, her co-workers at Billy McHale's Restaurant in Bellingham pored through pictures of Rasberry, and 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.

Rasberry took her 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, Knopp said.

"Honestly, skydiving is all she talked about."

— Susan Kelleher

Casey Craig, 30, Bothell

Casey Craig was a veteran of more than 600 jumps, introduced to the sport by his older brother, Kelly.

"I want to make sure people know he didn't die skydiving — it was a plane crash," said his mother, Wanda Craig.

Kelly Craig, 34, told KING-TV he'd wanted to go to Idaho to jump with his brother and other friends, but had to work. Of the skydiving group, he said, "they were all family."

On his Web page on MySpace.com, Casey Craig 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."

His profile also said he was a 1995 graduate of Inglemoor High in Kenmore, where he was on the wrestling and track teams.

Ryan Shipley, a Lake Stevens skydiver, said Craig was one of the group's social magnets, hosting "Wine Wednesday" every week at his Bothell home.

Craig had already mailed out invitations for a Halloween party, he said.

— Diane Brooks, Eric Pryne and Craig Welch

Michelle Barker, 22, Kirkland

Michelle Barker took her first dive on her 18th birthday, said her stepfather, Rich Williams.

"We didn't know how much it would take over her life," he said. "After skydiving, we never saw her; she was either in the air or on the jump zone."

Originally from Idaho, Barker began working at Star Skydiving Center outside Boise, friend Kendall Shew said, and moved to the Seattle area last spring to be with 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

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 seven-year anniversary at Microsoft.

— Lornet Turnbull

Landon Atkin, 20, Maltby

At the home where Landon Atkin grew up, about two miles south of his job at Harvey Airfield, family, friends and neighbors came and went throughout the day Tuesday.

Atkin, 20, recently attended Cascadia Community College in Bothell and made his first parachute jump on a whim a little more than a year ago, said his sister, Taisha Atkin.

He started working at a Harvey Field skydiving business, packing parachutes, and by last weekend had made more than 100 jumps and changed his college studies to move toward a career as a pilot.

— Peyton Whitely

Jeff Ross, 28, Snohomish

Ross had begun skydiving a little more than 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 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."

— Janet I. Tu and Diane Brooks

Ralph Abdo, 27, Issaquah

A program manager at Microsoft, Ralph Abdo took up skydiving just a few months ago. It's hard to imagine how he found the time.

"He's always been into a lot of extreme sports," said his brother, Nadim Abdo — windsurfing, backcountry snowboarding, scuba diving. "He always had a million different projects going on."

He broke his foot this year, his brother said, and only recently had it improved enough to allow him to resume some of his avocations.

Abdo graduated from McGill University in Montreal and joined Microsoft about five years ago. He worked in the Office unit, and is listed as an inventor on several company patents or patent applications.

Tina Brake, a neighbor, said Abdo "was very outdoorsy, very active, always doing something interesting."

— Eric Pryne

Cecil Elsner, 20, Lake Stevens

Cecil Elsner lived for three things: skiing, skydiving and his family.

Outgoing and bright, Elsner was a Western Washington University honors student who made documentary films and enjoyed writing, said a cousin, Brian Long.

Extreme thrills were natural to him: As a child Elsner learned to ski fast and in the past few years admired Shane McConkey, a professional skier who slides off cliffs with a parachute on.

In death, he cast a long shadow, mourned by his father, mother, sister and a twin brother, along with cousins, aunts and uncles.

"He's kind of like the glue in the family," his cousin said. "It didn't matter who you were. He would find something in you to like you, even if it was the littlest thing."

— Sanjay Bhatt

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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