Rescue efforts find all 10 killed in skydiver plane crash
Close-knit jumpers' community is shaken after wreckage found in Cascades
By Tomas Alex Tizon
Los Angeles Times
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times
MT. RAINIER, Wash. — Skydivers in the Pacific Northwest mourned their friends Tuesday as search crews located the remains of a group killed in a plane crash southeast of Mt. Rainier.
Authorities withheld the identities of the nine skydivers and pilot, but family and friends came forward as workers began removing the bodies from the crash site.
"The people on the plane were all my friends, my family," said an emotional Kelly Craig, a skydiver whose brother Casey was on the plane.
Craig said his brother would "want everybody to know that he died living the way he wanted to live."
Craig said the skydiving community in the Northwest was a tightknit one — and that it had been shaken.
The crash victims, who ranged in age from 20 to 46, had participated in a skydiving event near Boise, Idaho — their final jump of the season — and were headed back to Shelton, Wash., when their single-engine Cessna disappeared Sunday night.
On Monday, search and rescue teams scoured the rough terrain south of Rainier, following the scent of fuel.
They found the wreckage in a heavily wooded area just east of the crest of the Cascades, 25 miles southeast of Rainier and 45 miles west of the town of Yakima.
Yakima County Sheriff Ken Irwin said the Cessna Caravan 208 appeared to have nose dived at a speed of about 70 mph. Emergency workers described the scene as "horrific," with wreckage spread out over a 60-by-100-foot area. The tail section could not be found.
The nine skydivers, who came from all over the region, were affiliated with Skydive Snohomish — a skydiving school and specially designated "drop zone" based at Harvey Field in Snohomish County, northeast of Seattle.
"This is incomprehensible; we can't fathom what we're hearing," said Elaine Harvey, who runs Skydive Snohomish with her husband. Harvey said she planned to have a private ceremony with other skydivers and friends to honor the victims, and would probably hold a public memorial.
There are four main drop zones in western Washington, each with several hundred regular jumpers.
"There aren't a whole lot of us [in the skydiving community], so we get to know each other real well," said Dave Williams, a skydiver from Bremerton, Wash. "When we lose one, it's very tragic."
The pilot was identified by friends and family as Phil Kibler of the Seattle area. The plane belonged to Kapowsin Air Sports in Shelton.
In the summer of 1983, nine skydivers and two pilots were killed when their plane crashed into a field near Arlington, just a few miles from Harvey Field.