MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WGHP) — New details have been released about a co-pilot’s mysterious mid-flight exit from a plane and fatal fall in North Carolina last month.
On July 29 around 3:20 p.m., a medium cargo plane made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar landed on a runway and veered into the grass.
The plane initially had two people on board. First responders told Nexstar’s WNCN that one person onboard the plane was taken to Duke Hospital with minor injuries.
Shortly after the plane landed, local emergency units began searching for a co-pilot who either fell or jumped from the plane without a parachute while it was in the air.
Authorities were later flagged down by someone who heard a noise in their yard. The co-pilot, 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks, was then found dead in the Sonoma Springs Neighborhood, roughly 30 miles south of the airport.
Crooks was so upset with a mishap during the flight that he opened the cockpit window and “may have gotten sick,” the pilot told investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The pilot took over radio communications, and Crooks lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane, indicating that felt like he was going to be sick and needed air, according to an NTSB news release.
The pilot says Crooks then got up from his seat, took his headset off, apologized and exited the plane from the open ramp door without a parachute
There was a bar a person could grab about six feet above the ramp, but the pilot says he did not see Crooks grab the bar before exiting the airplane.
The pilot then turned the airplane to the right to search for Crooks.
Flight tracking software shows the plane initially took off from Raeford, North Carolina, at 1:10 p.m. Friday. The plane circled around Raeford before heading toward Raleigh, a roughly 80-mile trip.
Before arriving in Raeford, flight tracking software shows the aircraft took off from the Rocky Mount/Wilson Airport, about 50 miles east of Raleigh, at 11:52 a.m. and landed at Raeford West Airport at 12:34 p.m.
According to a recording, the co-pilots called air traffic control to inform them that the main right wheel of the landing gear had fallen off. One of the co-pilots said they attempted to land at Raeford and they “made a hard landing, decided to go around, and at that point, we lost the wheel.”
While in-flight, one of the co-pilots called Fayetteville Air Traffic Control for help rerouting to Raleigh-Durham International. You can hear one of them say “We’ve lost our right wheel – we’d like to proceed to Raleigh and make a landing.”
During the conversation, one of the men from the plane said they had enough fuel to fly in the air for another four hours before having to land. Someone eventually responded, “Quick question. How do you intend to land at Raleigh-Durham?”
The response from one of the men was, “Get as low as we can, and I guess we’re going to put it on the belly.”
Multiple first responders headed to the airport after the plane landed on the runway. The pilot was taken to the hospital where officials said he was OK.
It’s still unclear why Crooks fell from the plane.
Local and state officials are now working with the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration, both of which are now leading the investigation.