North Carolina Pilot Dies After Mysteriously Falling From Plane During Emergency Landing

by Amy Myers

An emergency landing for a North Carolina plane turned into a critical investigation after officials found only one pilot on board when the wheels touched the ground. Hours later, they discovered the second pilot dead behind a residential property.

On Friday at approximately 2:40 p.m. ET, a twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar landed in the grass at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in rough shape. Two people were on board when the plane took off, but only one made it safely on the ground. While crews transported the known pilot to the hospital for minor injuries, the search began for the other man.

Four hours later, a resident from Fuquay-Varina (15 miles southwest of Raleigh) alerted officers searching the area that they heard something in their backyard. Unfortunately, that’s when they recovered the body of Charles Hew Crooks, 23, from Raleigh, North Carolina, who officials believed to be the copilot.

“A resident flagged it down. I don’t know if it’s directly in their property, but is behind a residential property where this individual was found,” Wake County Emergency Management Chief of Operations Darshan Patel told reporters.

It’s unclear whether Crooks fell or jumped from the plane before the emergency landing. However, officials did reveal that the young man didn’t have a parachute or any jumping gear on him.

“I believe this was a first for many of us that were working this incident today,” Wake County Emergency Management chief of operations Darshan Patel said of Crooks’ death, according to WRAL.

Father of Deceased North Carolina Pilot ‘Can’t Imagine What Happened’ During Emergency Landing

Of course, in the aftermath of the startling and tragic news, Crooks’ family is mourning the 23-year-old’s untimely and mysterious death.

According to the North Carolina pilot’s father, Hew Crooks, Charles had a passion for the skies and had only recently earned his license.

“He pursued his private pilot license while he was in college. I think he got that when he was a sophomore,” Hew Crooks said. “He said a couple weeks ago, he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was.”

In regards to his son’s death, Hew couldn’t offer any theories on why or how his son ended up airborne before the emergency landing.

“I can’t imagine what happened,” the dad said. “We’ll figure it out, I suppose.”

“We can’t process it right now, I don’t know,” he continued.

Likewise, Fuquay-Varina police chief Brandon Medina referred to Crooks’ death as a “unique” situation.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating the reason for the North Carolina pilot’s death. The name of the surviving pilot is not yet available. Officials have also yet to reveal whether they are treating the incident as a criminal investigation.