A 911 call from air traffic controllers suggests that a co-pilot may have jumped from a damaged plane before the other pilot made an emergency landing in North Carolina, according to a recording of the call that was released Tuesday.
It’s been unclear exactly how or why Charles Hew Crooks, 23, exited the small cargo plane on Friday afternoon about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. He did not have a parachute, and his body was found in a backyard on a property in Compaign Cove in the town of Fuquay-Varina.
Two unnamed Federal Aviation Administration employees can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher that the plane was heading to the airport.
The pilot onboard had apparently told them that his co-pilot had ‘jumped out of the aircraft,’ news outlets reported.
‘We have a pilot that was inbound to the field,’ a controller told the 911 dispatcher, according to WRAL. ‘His co-pilot jumped out of the aircraft. He made impact to the ground and here are the coordinates.’
The plane was forced to make an emergency landing after losing its right wheel during a previous landing attempt. The unidentified pilot on board is heard asking air traffic control for help in a 40-minute recording
When asked how the pilot was going to land the plane, he said: ‘Going to go in as slow as we can and I guess we are going to put it on the belly’
This map shows the area of North Carolina that Crooks’ body was found in after the plane he was piloting emergency landed at Raleigh-Durham airport
‘All we can do is recovery at this point,’ FAA personnel said at the end of the 911 call. ‘I mean, I don’t know. I’ve never heard…this is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard’
The call lasted about 13 minutes, with the controllers stating several times that the co-pilot had jumped.
Wake County Emergency Management Chief of Operations Darshan Patel said the initial 911 call prompted the search for Crooks.
The airplane had substantial damage to its landing gear and fuselage, according to preliminary information gathered by the National Transportation Safety Board. The investigation is ongoing.
The pilot, whose name has not been released, sustained minor injuries. He was taken to Duke Hospital and released last Friday night.
A photo of Crooks from his LinkedIn page. The young pilot wrote that he joined Rampart Aviation in March 2022. His role was pilot, second in command
In a 40-minute exchange between the unidentified pilot and air traffic control, there is no mention or hint of Crooks falling from the plane.
The pilot can be heard saying: ‘Emergency, we’ve lost our right wheel. We would like to proceed to Raleigh and make a landing at Raleigh.’
He adds: ‘We have two persons on board. We have enough fuel on board that will last us for the next four hours.’
Air Traffic control responds: ‘Raleigh-Durham Airport or Raleigh-General?’ ‘Rogers resume all navigation to Raleigh-Durham Airport.’
‘More clarification, did you try landing on Raeford West?’ he asks. ‘Did it [the wheel] fall off while still in the air?’
‘We were attempting to land,’ the pilot said. ‘We made contact with the ground and had a hard landing and decided to go around and at that point we lost the wheel.’
When air traffic control questioned how they intended to land, the pilot said: ‘Going to go in as slow as we can and I guess we are going to put it on the belly.’ He then repeated that the plane’s right wheel had fallen off.
Crooks’ body was found 30 miles south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the trees of a property in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina
Hew Crooks’, the 23-year-old’s father – said that flying was his son’s ‘lifelong dream’. He said his son was a former flight instructor and was certified to fly in all types of conditions
Once the plane hit Runway 5R-23L at Raleigh-Durham International Airport around 2.40pm, there were multiple law enforcement agencies standing by.
There was one person on the plane, but no sign of Crooks, the second co-pilot.
The family living on the property of where Crooks was found later told local news outlets they head a loud thud, and called police.
Hew Crooks’, the 23-year-old’s father – said that flying was his son’s ‘lifelong dream’.
He said his son was a former flight instructor and was certified to fly in all types of conditions.
Hew Crooks told WRAL that Crooks had recently told him how ‘he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was.’
Crooks pictured standing on the inside of the plane appearing euphoric with two other people who were not identfied
The aircraft was owned by Colorado-based Rampart Aviation. The company did not respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment. Crooks started working at the company five months ago, according to his LinkedIn.
The small plane had a capacity of around 10 passengers and was not making a commercial flight at the time of the incident.
On Friday at a press conference, Darshan Patel, operations manager for Wake County emergency management confirmed that Crooks did not have a parachute on and it was unclear at the time how high the plane was when the young pilot exited.
The aircraft was a CASA C-212 Aviocar, made in Spain in 1983, ABC7 News reported.
Crooks was a 2020 graduate of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. On his Instagram there is a photo of him in a plane with the words: ‘I’m just here to fly the planes.’
The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident.