The co-pilot of a plane flying over North Carolina last month was distressed and said he “needed air” before he jumped out of the aircraft without a parachute, an investigation revealed.
Charles Hew Crooks became “visibly upset” when the CASA C-212 Aviocar “dropped” and damaged its landing gear during a hard landing at Raeford West Airport on July 29, according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday. Crooks and another pilot at the time were ferrying skydivers and had already completed two runs that day.
Crooks was helming the aircraft when it experienced trouble during its third run, prompting the pilot in charge to take over the controls. He managed to keep the plane in the air and ordered Crooks to request a diversion to Raleigh-Durham International Airport for landing.
About 20 minutes later, the 23-year-old lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane and “indicated that he felt sick and needed air,” according to the preliminary NTSB report. He “then got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane,” the report said.
The surviving pilot, who was not named, briefly attempted to search for Crooks and then reported the potential coordinates of his location before touching down at RDU.
Crooks’ body was was found hours later outside of a home Fuquay-Varina.
According to his obituary, Crooks had an “overriding passion” for aviation, “practically from birth.” He started taking flying lessons at a young age and has been flying ever since. He nabbed his “dream job” as a first officer with Rampart Aviation in April 2022.