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A pilot who fell to his death was ‘visibly upset’ by a mid-flight emergency, officials say

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A pilot who fell from a twin-engine plane in North Carolina last month appeared “visibly upset” and told his copilot he felt sick and needed air after a mid-flight emergency, federal officials said Tuesday.

Charles Hew Crooks, 23, the second-in-command of the CASA CN-212 Aviocar, then removed his headset, rose from his seat and apologized to the senior pilot before “exiting” through the rear door of the plane, according to a preliminary report on the July 29 incident from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The pilot, who has not been identified, told investigators that Crooks did not appear to reach for a bar about six feet high before falling, the report said.

Charles Hew Crooks.WRAL

Crooks was not wearing a parachute at the time.

Previously, the pilots had crossed over paratroopers when their plane “descended” and the landing gear hit a runway, the report says.

According to the report, Crooks has declared a state of emergency and has coordinated with air traffic controllers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

After about 20 minutes, Crooks became “visibly upset” over the hard landing and stopped communicating with air traffic controllers, the report said.

At about the same time, Crooks opened the cockpit side window and “maybe he got sick,” the authoritative pilot told investigators, according to the report.

After falling from the plane, the authoritative pilot alerted air traffic controllers and set out to look for Crooks, the report said.

He landed the plane around 2:40 p.m. in a grassy field near the Raleigh airport. Crooks’ body was found in a Fuquay-Varina neighborhood, southwest of Raleigh, about five hours later after a resident heard a noise in their backyard.

Crooks’ father, Hew Crooks, told Raleigh’s NBC affiliate WRAL, that his son was a certified flight instructor who had worked for years to become a pilot.

“He pursued his private pilot’s license while in college. I think he got that when he was a sophomore,” Crooks told the station. “He said a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t trade with anyone in the world. He loved where he was.”

“I can’t imagine what happened,” he added. “We’ll figure it out, I guess.”

Jay Blackman contributed.

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