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Thursday, August 11, 2022

North Carolina pilot, 23, dies after falling or JUMPING from plane with landing gear trouble

A 23 year-old pilot died after falling or jumping from a small aircraft after its landing gear suffered a fault.  

Charles Hew Crooks was found in Fuquay-Varina on Friday after a confusing search for law enforcement that included multiple county, state and federal agencies.

He was piloting the small plane with an unnamed co-pilot when it suffered a fault with its landing gear. 

The plane later made an emergency landing at a local airport, with the co-pilot taken for hospital treatment.

The plane is licensed by Spore LTD LLC, who are managed by Rampart Aviation, a which offers pilot and plane training for the Department of Defense. 

Mystery now surrounds Crooks tragic death; whether he fell from the plane – possibly while trying to fix the problem – or whether he chose to jump.

He was not wearing a parachute at the time of the plunge.  

His father, Hew Crooks, is mystified by the tragedy, and says Charles, who was his eldest son, was happy.

Hew told WRAL that Crooks had recently told him how ‘he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was.’  

23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks was found dead in a North Carolina backyard after ‘exiting’ a plane that was forced to make an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham Airport on Friday

The plane landed on a runway before veering onto the grass, though the pilot on board survived with only minor injuries. The pilot said 'we've lost our right wheel' to air traffic control before landing

The plane landed on a runway before veering onto the grass, though the pilot on board survived with only minor injuries. The pilot said ‘we’ve lost our right wheel’ to air traffic control before landing

Crooks was found to have 'exited' the aircraft while it was in the air, landing in a backyard in Fuquay-Varina before his remains were discovered

Crooks was found to have ‘exited’ the aircraft while it was in the air, landing in a backyard in Fuquay-Varina before his remains were discovered 

Crooks told WRAL his son’s death was still a mystery to him, adding he ‘can’t imagine what happened.’ 

His son’s body was found when a person flagged authorities after hearing ‘something’ in their backyard.

The Raleigh native obtained his pilot’s license while at college, according to his father, and worked as a flight instructor as he was trained to fly in almost any conditions. 

‘We’re a strong family and we’re a very loving family. But this, it leaves a hole, his father said. ‘I don’t know. We can’t process it right now.’

Shortly before 3 p.m. on Friday a twin-engine turbo prop aircraft reported landing gear issues as it approached the airport before landing on the runway and veering onto the grass.

Audio from the plane revealed the surviving co-pilot contacting air traffic control, saying ‘We’d like to speak to Raleigh and make an emergency landing at Raleigh.’

The pilot said ‘we’ve lost our right wheel’ before the emergency landing, which caused the airport to close the airfield until the scene was secured. 

Crooks got his pilots license when he was in college, loved his job flying and 'wouldn't trade places with anybody in the world,' according to his father

Crooks got his pilots license when he was in college, loved his job flying and ‘wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world,’ according to his father

A tweet from a person who was at the airport when the plane made an emergency landing shows emergency services spraying the plane with water

A tweet from a person who was at the airport when the plane made an emergency landing shows emergency services spraying the plane with water

Law enforcement searched for Crooks on Friday before being flagged down by a resident that heard something in their backyard. The plane they were flying was small with a capacity of around 10 passengers

Law enforcement searched for Crooks on Friday before being flagged down by a resident that heard something in their backyard. The plane they were flying was small with a capacity of around 10 passengers

Darshan Patel, operations manager for Wake County emergency management, said Crooks did not have a parachute and it was unclear how high the plane was when he 'exited'

Darshan Patel, operations manager for Wake County emergency management, said Crooks did not have a parachute and it was unclear how high the plane was when he ‘exited’

The small plane had a capacity of around 10 passengers and was not making a commercial flight at the time of the incident.

The other pilot, the only other person on board, was taken to Duke Hospital with minor injuries and was released Friday night.

Darshan Patel, operations manager for Wake County emergency management, said at a news briefing ‘we wished for a better outcome.’

The man reportedly did not have a parachute and Patel said he did not know whether Crooks had jumped or fell from the aircraft. 

Patel did not know the exact altitude of the plane when Crooks exited the aircraft, but flight maps suggest the plane was at about 3,850 feet. 

The plane crossed over Hilltop Needmore Road, near the site where Crooks’ body was found, at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

Patel deferred questions about the incident to RDU, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

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