A 112 emergency call by air traffic controllers suggests that a copilot who died last week after exiting a plane during an emergency may have jumped mid-flight, according to a recording released Tuesday.
The body of Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was recovered last weekend after jumping from the plane near Raleigh, North Carolina, Friday afternoon. The pilot had no parachute as he exited the twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar, raising the question of whether he had fallen or jumped from the plane.
The 13-minute recording of a 911 call made by two Federal Aviation Administration employees at the RDU air traffic control tower during the incident may shed some light on the situation, with workers suggesting that the other pilot on the plane reported that Crooks was jumped.
“This is from Raleigh Airport. We have a pilot who came in on the field. His copilot jumped out of the plane,” an FAA official can be heard saying before providing the coordinates of where the incident took place.
“So, they said he jumped out of the plane,” they say. “His copilot jumped out without a parachute so he could have an impact on the ground.”
“I think at this point we can only do some sort of recovery,” the coordinator says at one point.
“Yes, I know. Yes, I mean, I don’t know,” responds another FAA employee who takes the call. “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
“I mean, I’m sure this pilot is going to be shaken up. I have no idea. He literally said, ‘My pilot just jumped out,'” they say. The identities of the FAA employees have not been released.
There was no indication as to why Crooks may have jumped and the investigation into exactly what happened is still ongoing.
The pilot of the plane had told air traffic control there was a problem with the landing gear and had requested an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
They were able to land the plane on a lawn at the airport around 2:40 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said.
In a video obtained by NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleighcan be seen that the plane appears to skid off the runway and spin in a partial circle before coming to a stop.
The plane sustained significant damage to its landing gear and fuselage, according to preliminary information gathered by the National Transportation Safety Board The Associated Press.
A number of agencies assisted in the search for Crooks. His body was recovered in the Fuquay-Varina neighborhood after a resident urged an officer on and said they heard a noise behind their property.
Crooks’ father, Hew Crooks, told… WRAL that his son had spent years working on his dream of becoming a pilot.
“He pursued his private pilot’s license while in college. I think he got that when he was a sophomore,” Hew Crooks said. “He said a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t trade with anyone in the world. He loved where he was.”
He said his family was devastated and wondering what exactly happened to their son that day.
“I can’t imagine what happened,” he said. “We’ll figure it out, I guess.”
Hew Crooks said his son was certified to fly in all conditions and had previously been a flight instructor.
His loss, the father said, has left an irreparable void in the family.
“We are a strong family and we are a very loving family. But this leaves a gap,” he said.