A 911 call from air traffic controllers suggests that aof a damaged plane before the other pilot made an emergency landing in North Carolina, according to a recording of the call released Tuesday.
It’s unclear exactly how or why 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks exited the small cargo plane on Friday afternoon about 30 miles south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. He had no parachute and his body was found in a courtyard in the town of Fuquay-Varina.
Two unnamed Federal Aviation Administration employees can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher that the plane was heading for the airport. The pilot on board apparently told them that his co-pilot “jumped out of the plane,” CBS affiliate WNCN-TV reported.
“We have a pilot coming into the field,” a controller told the 911 dispatcher, according to WNCN. “His co-pilot jumped out of the plane. He hit the ground and here are the coordinates.”
The call lasted about 13 minutes, with controllers repeatedly indicating that the co-pilot had jumped out.
Investigators have yet to confirm that Crooks intentionally jumped at this time despite the background of the 911 call, WNCN reported.
Wake County Emergency Management operations chief Darshan Patel said the initial 911 call prompted the search for Crooks.
“All we can do is recover at this point,” FAA personnel said over the phone with 911, according to WNCN. “I mean, I don’t know…I’ve never heard…That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The plane sustained significant damage to its landing gear and fuselage, according to preliminary information gathered by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Crooks’ father, Hew Crooks, told WRAL-TV his son has been working as a flight instructor for over a year.
“He said a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world. He liked where he was,” he told the station, adding, “I can’t imagine what happened.”
The investigation is ongoing.