Two Federal Aviation Administration workers in the tower at Raleigh-Durham International Airport told a Raleigh-Weik County 911 dispatcher that the surviving pilot reported that his co-pilot had ejected from the plane last week before the emergency landing.
The body of 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks was found in a Fuquay-Varina backyard on the evening of July 29, hours after the plane landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Crooks was one of the two pilots of the CASA 212-200.
“This is from the Raleigh airport,” an FAA employee said in a recording obtained by WRAL News on Tuesday. “We have a pilot who has arrived in the field. His co-pilot jumped out of the plane. It hit the ground and here are the coordinates.
The recording, of the exchange between the airport and 911 dispatchers, lasts about 13 minutes.
“He said he jumped out of the aircraft,” the FAA employee said. – His co-pilot jumped out without a parachute, so he could have hit the ground.
Wake County Emergency Management Operations Manager Darshan Patel said the first 911 call came in around 2:30 p.m., Friday, July 29, from RDU. Patel said the call led to a search for Crooks. The flight logs show that the emergency landing took place at 2:48 p.m
FAA officials were trying to figure out what happened.
“I’m sure the pilot is going to be shocked,” the FAA employee said. “I have no idea.
“He just said, ‘My pilot just bailed out.’
Crooks had no harness or parachute.
Patel told WRAL News, “After the plane landed, it was reconfirmed based on the report that the pilot said that the second person on board had exited the aircraft prior to landing.”
“I think at this point all we can do is recover,” the FAA employee said. “I know. I don’t know. It’s the craziest thing.”
Devin Lynch, a friend of Crooks, said he wants answers.
“I would be interested to hear the CVR because I would like to hear what was going on in the cockpit that was not reported to air traffic control,” Lynch said.
Lynch said that from the years he’s known Crooks, it seems out of character for him to jump out of a plane without a parachute.
“I’ve known Charles for three years. He’s been a pilot since the day I met him. I’ve flown with him a few times and I can tell you firsthand what a pilot he was. He followed all the rules to the letter,” he said.
The NTSB is taking over the investigation
The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday that it is taking over the investigation into Crooks’ death.
The news comes a day after the Federal Aviation Administration said it would lead the investigation.
The RDU Police Department reported that they had interviewed the living pilot, whose name has not been published. RDU police have not released a report on the incident, citing an ongoing investigation. Airport police referred the conversation to the FAA and NTSB.
According to the NTSB, preliminary information indicates that the plane’s landing gear and fuselage were severely damaged.
The NTSB will determine the scope of its investigation as more information is gathered. The board is not conducting any interviews on Tuesday.
WRAL News also requested interviews with the FAA and RDU police.
Patel said more than 80 people were involved in the search for Crooks.
“It was a pretty big search area to begin with, so we wanted to make sure we were using our resources effectively, but also efficiently, to do what we could for this person,” Patel said.
Several law enforcement agencies participated in the search for Crooks, including Wake County Emergency Management, the City of Cary, the City of Holly Springs, the City of Fuquay-Varina and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
“For the people who were in the area, it was like all hands on deck,” Patel said.
Authorities discovered Crooks’ body around 7 p.m. Friday, July 29, in the backyard of a Fuquay-Varina home. A neighbor who heard the noise recorded officers in the area. Officers found Crooks with no signs of a harness or parachute.
WRAL News is trying to determine what the two pilots’ mission was on July 29. Both pilots were employed by Rampart Aviation at the time. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment from WRAL News.