A 911 call released on Tuesday revealed that the co-pilot who mysteriously disappeared mid-air in North Carolina “jumped” out of the plane.
Two Federal Aviation Administration employees could be heard saying Charles Hew Crooks’ co-pilot reported he jumped from the damaged plane before it made an emergency landing at Raleigh Durham International Airport Friday, WRAL reported.
“It’s from Raleigh Airport,” an FAA air traffic controller said on the recording. “We have a pilot who was arriving on the ground. His co-pilot jumped out of the plane. He made a ground impact and here are the coordinates.
The 23-year-old’s body was later discovered in the backyard of a home in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, about 30 miles south of the airport.
During the 13-minute call, an FAA employee said Crooks’ co-pilot reported that he “jumped without the parachute, so he could have ground impact.”
“I’m sure the pilot is going to be shaken up,” an FAA employee said. “I have no idea. He literally just said, ‘My pilot just jumped out.’
The recording captured FAA employees frantically trying to figure out what had happened to Crooks.
“I guess at this point all we can do is recover,” an FAA controller told a dispatcher. “I don’t know. I don’t know. This is the craziest thing ever.”
Wake County emergency management officials told WRAL the initial 911 call was received at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The plane, a CASA 212-200, made an emergency landing about 18 minutes later, WRAL reported.
“Once the plane landed, it was reconfirmed based on a report that the pilot said the person on board the plane exited the plane prior to landing,” said at the station Wake County Emergency Management chief of operations Darshan Patel.
Crooks’ co-pilot, whose identity has not been released, was taken to hospital with minor injuries during the landing. He was released later that day.
Crooks’ father, Hew Crooks, previously told WRAL he had no idea what happened during his son’s final moments.
“We cannot process it at this time,” he said. “I do not know.”
Devin Lynch, a friend of Crooks, said the incident did not match what he knew about the late pilot.
“I’ve known Charles for three years,” Lynch told WRAL. “He was a pilot from the day I met him. I flew with him a few times, and I can tell you firsthand what kind of pilot he was. He followed all the rules to the letter.
Lynch said he would like to hear what the cockpit voice recorders were picking up at the time.
“I would be interested in hearing the CVR recording because I would like to hear what was going on in the cockpit that was not being communicated to air traffic control,” Lynch said.
The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the ongoing investigation. Preliminary information indicates that the aircraft suffered significant damage to its landing gear and fuselage, prompting the pilot to request an emergency landing.
The pilots were flying at the time for Rampart Aviation, which did not respond to inquiries about the nature of the flight, WRAL reported.