A man jumped or fell out of a plane on Friday before it touched down at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina.
The aircraft crashed in an emergency landing due to trouble with its landing gear, WRAL reported.
The 23-year-old copilot’s body was eventually located in a neighbor’s backyard in Fuquay-Varina that evening following a search.
Charles Hew Crooks did not survive, officials stated. When Crooks either jumped or fell from the plane, he reportedly was not wearing a parachute.
23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks was copiloting a plane yesterday when it lost part of its landing gear.
As the pilot went to land at RDU, Crooks either jumped or fell out of the plane without a parachute. He didn’t survive.
— Keenan Willard (@KeenanWRAL) July 30, 2022
The aircraft was a ten-person plane, however, there were only two individuals onboard and only the pilot was onboard following the landing.
Video footage showed the plane approaching the airport runway as a helicopter hovered nearby. The plane seemed as if it was tilting to one side after the landing:
The remaining pilot was transported to a hospital suffering from minor injuries and later released.
WRAL obtained audio of the pilot speaking with traffic control, requesting assistance.
“Emergency, we’ve lost our right wheel,” the pilot explained, adding, “We’d like to speak to Raleigh and make an emergency landing at Raleigh.”
“So, I don’t know. I mean, we can’t process it right now,” Hew Crooks, the father of Charles Hew Crooks, told NBC News of the devastating loss.
The family is waiting for investigators to determine what led to the tragic incident:
“We’re a strong family and we’re a very loving family, but this just leaves a hole that we just don’t know how we’ll ever fill,” Crooks’ father added.
The airfield at the airport was temporarily shut down until officials secured the area.
Meanwhile, a resident in the area where Crooks’ body was found told ABC 11 he felt terrible for the young man’s family:
“I don’t know if we’ll ever really know, but it’s just crazy … the sadness about it, right? Of it being a 23-year-old guy. Probably woke up that day, had breakfast, and was ready to go fly a plane,” he said.
UPDATE: According to a report published late Sunday, the unnamed pilot told officials Crooks jumped out of the twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar.
“The unnamed pilot told Wake County investigators that Crooks leapt from the aircraft before their emergency landing attempt, unsuccessfully aiming toward a body of water,” according to the Washington Examiner.