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 south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. He did not have a parachute, and his body was found in a backyard 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,” CBS affiliate WNCN-TV reported,
— CBS 17 (@WNCN) August 2, 2022
“We have a pilot that was inbound to the field,” a controller told the 911 dispatcher, according to WNCN. “His co-pilot jumped out of the aircraft. He made impact to the ground and here are the coordinates.”
The call lasted about 13 minutes, with the controllers stating several times that the co-pilot had jumped.
Investigators have still not confirmed that Crooks intentionally jumped at this time despite the context of the 911 call, WNCN reported.
Wake County Emergency Management Chief of Operations Darshan Patel said the initial 911 call prompted the search for Crooks.
“All we can do is recovery at this point,” FAA personnel said on the phone with 911, according to WNCN. “I mean, I don’t know…I’ve never heard…This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The airplane sustained substantial damage to its landing gear and fuselage, according to preliminary information gathered by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Crooks’ father, Hew Crooks, told WRAL-TV that his son had been working as a flight instructor for over a year.
“He said a couple weeks ago, he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was,” he told the station, adding: “I can’t imagine what happened.”
The investigation is ongoing.