Co-pilot dies after exiting plane midair before emergency landing at RDU

nitinut380 /

A pilot from North Carolina has died under mysterious circumstances after exiting an aircraft he was co-piloting.

The co-pilot, identified as Charles Hew Crooks, and a pilot were onboard a twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar when it took off on July 29, 2022.

The unidentified pilot told air traffic control that there was an issue with the landing gear and asked to make an emergency landing at the airport, local radio station WRAL reported. The pilot suffered minor injuries and has been released from the hospital.

The pilot was heard in a 40-minute audio recording asking air traffic control for assistance in  making an emergency landing before 23-year-old Crooks either jumped or fell from the aircraft at 3,500 feet.  

“Emergency, we’ve lost our right wheel,” the pilot said in the recording, which was obtained by WRAL. 

“We’d like to speak to Raleigh and make an emergency landing at Raleigh,” the pilot can be heard saying. 

It is not yet known whether Crooks fell trying to fix the landing gear or simply jumped from the twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar aircraft. 

The emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) was captured on camera by a WRAL pilot. Footage shows the aircraft skidding off the runway, and then spinning in a partial circle before coming to a stop. An air ambulance, multiple fire trucks and paramedics can be seen waiting on standby.

Crooks’ body was found at around 19:00 on July 29, 2022, in the woods behind a Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina residential area, about 48 kilometers from RDU. He was not wearing a parachute.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the incident.

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