Pilot killed in crash at Fall City golf course 'loved flying'

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by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on July 8, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 8 at 5:36 PM

FALL CITY, Wash. -- There are neighbors who are your friends. And then there are neighbors who are more like family. That is what 70-year-old Jack Ciliberti was to Joe Bookter.

“We see one another almost every day. We talk about everything,” Bookter said.

In fact it was just Monday Bookter had what would be his last conversation with his friend of more than 30 years.

“And that’s when he told me he was going to Harvey Field this morning to have his airplane checked out,” said Bookter.

Bookter said Ciliberti was planning to take his 1956 Cessna 182 in for its yearly maintenance check.

Witnesses say it was foggy when the plane appeared to struggle to gain altitude and then crashed. Bill Bergsma had just hit his second shot onto the green on number two at the Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course when he noticed a low flying plane overhead.

“And then that engine just started screaming loud like he decided he was in trouble and he was just cranking it for all he could do. And there was a little thunk as it sheered a wing off a tree,” said Bergsma.

The wreckage scattered in the middle of the 9th fairway where planes flying overhead are part of the game here. Ciliberti rented a hangar at a nearby airstrip. Bill Bergsma said the fog was particularly stubborn.

“Something made him decide maybe he needed to turn around and go back. So he turned around and got disoriented I think.”

Joe Bookter remembers Ciliberti as a man who loved to get up in the air in his small plane and took safety very seriously.

“Oh he loved it. He loved flying.”

Looking toward his friend and neighbor’s house across the street, Bookter still half expects to see Ciliberti heading over to say hi.

“He was just a best friend,” said Bookter. “We were like brothers.”

The NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash.

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