Watch CBS News

NTSB investigating after mysterious death of co-pilot who exited plane in mid-air in North Carolina

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that it has launched an investigation after the co-pilot of a small cargo plane died Friday after falling from the aircraft in North Carolina before it made an emergency landing.

CBS affiliate WNCN-TV reported that the body of the co-pilot, 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks, was found in a backyard in the town of Fuquay-Varina, about 30 miles south of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. He did not have a parachute.

The pilot made an emergency landing at the airport Friday afternoon after reporting that one of the wheels had come off the landing gear of the CASA 212-200 airplane. He was treated and released from a hospital with minor injuries.

The pilot was the only person on board the turboprop aircraft when it landed.

Calls made to air traffic control reveal some clues about the moments leading up to that emergency landing, WNCN reported.

"Emergency, we've lost our right wheel, we'd like to proceed to Raleigh and made a landing at Raleigh," one pilot can be heard saying to air traffic controllers. It's unclear whether it's Crooks speaking or the other pilot on board, who has not yet been publicly identified. From there, the person explains what happened.

"We were attempting to land, we made contact with the ground, had a hard landing, and decided to go around, and at that point we lost the wheel," the man can be heard saying.

At no point in that recording does the pilot say a person jumped or fell from the plane. But on another recording, you can hear emergency crews say a person, later identified as Crooks, exited the plane at some point.

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."

Local and state authorities are also investigating.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.