Two Federal Aviation Administration employees in the Raleigh-Durham International Airport Tower told a Raleigh-Wake County 911 dispatcher that the surviving pilot reported that his co-pilot had jumped out of a plane last week before it made an emergency landing.
The body of Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was found on the evening of July 29 in a Fuquay-Varina backyard, hours after the plane landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Crooks was one of two pilots on the CASA 212-200 plane.
“This is from the Raleigh Airport,” an FAA employee said in a recording obtained by WRAL News on Tuesday. “We have a pilot who went into the field. His co-pilot jumped out of the aircraft. It impacted the ground and these are the coordinates.”
The recording, a communication between those at the airport and 911 dispatchers, lasts about 13 minutes.
“He said he jumped out of the aircraft,” said an FAA employee. “His co-pilot jumped out without the parachute so he could impact the ground.”
Wake County Emergency Management Operations Chief Darshan Patel said the initial 911 call came in around 2:30 pm Friday, July 29 from RDU. Patel said the call was what prompted the search for Crooks. Flight logs show that the emergency landing took place at 2:48 pm
FAA employees tried to figure out what happened.
“I’m sure the pilot will be shaken up,” said an FAA employee. “I do not know.
“He literally said, ‘My pilot jumped right out.’
Crooks had no harness or parachute.
Patel told WRAL News, “When the aircraft landed, it was confirmed based on a report from the pilot that the second person in the aircraft had ejected from the aircraft prior to landing.”
“I guess at this point, we just have to recover,” said an FAA employee. “I know. I don’t know. This is the craziest thing ever.”
NTSB takes over the investigation
The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday that it is conducting an investigation into Crooks’ death.
The news comes a day after the Federal Aviation Administration said it would lead the investigation.
The RDU Police Department said it interviewed the surviving co-pilot, whose name has not been released. RDU police have not released the incident report, citing an ongoing investigation. Airport police turned the interview over to the FAA and NTSB.
Preliminary information indicates that the plane sustained extensive damage to the landing gear and fuselage, according to the NTSB.
The NTSB will determine the scope of its investigation after gathering more information. The board has not been conducting any interviews since 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.
“Initially, it was quite a large search area, and we wanted to make sure that we used our resources effectively but also efficiently to do what we could for this individual,” Patel said. .
Several law enforcement entities were involved in the search for Crooks, including Wake County Emergency Management, the town of Cary, the town of Holly Springs, the town of Fuquay-Varina and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
“It was kind of like you for the people in that area,” Patel said.
Authorities found Crooks’ body around 7 pm Friday, July 29 in the backyard of the Fuquay-Varina home. A neighbor who heard a noise alerted officers to the area. Officers found Crooks with no signs of a harness or parachute.
WRAL News is working to determine what the mission of the two pilots was on July 29. Both pilots were working at the time for Rampart Aviation. The company did not respond to WRAL News’ multiple requests for comment.