A young pilot who was “visibly upset” by an emergency landing in North Carolina last month allegedly told his copilot he needed some air before jumping to his death, officials said.
Charles Hew Crooks, 23, jumped to his death from an aircraft flying over North Carolina on July 29, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The other pilot told investigators that Crooks, his co-pilot, “was visibly upset” by an emergency forced landing early in the flight, when the two were making parachute flights out of Raeford West Airport.
According to the report, Crooks was piloting the aircraft on its third approach towards a runway at Raeford West Airport in early July 29, when the plane’s landing gear impacted the runway in a botched landing.
The other pilot took control of the plane and instructed Crooks to declare an emergency and request a diversion to Raleigh-Durham International Airport for landing.
The pilot told investigators that Crooks was upset “about 20 minutes after the detour to the RDU, after carrying out the approach and emergency instructions,” the report said.
Crooks stopped communicating with air traffic controllers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, where the aircraft was diverted, and “might have gotten sick” before telling the other pilot he needs some air, the officer explained. report.
He then walked down the ramp at the back of the plane and “got up from his seat, took off his headset, apologized, and departed the plane through the rear ramp door.”
Crooks was not using a parachute, and as NBC News reported, did not appear to attempt to hold on to a metal bar placed above the ramp before “walking out” to his death.
The pilot’s body was later found in a backyard in the city of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, and an investigation was carried out by the National Transportation Safety Board. The other pilot was not named.
Additional reporting from the Associated Press
If you live in the US and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free and confidential emergency hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.