MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — New details have come out about the hours leading up to a plane’s emergency landing in North Carolina and the co-pilot’s mysterious mid-flight exit and fatal fall.
At around 3:20 p.m. Friday, a medium cargo plane made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina. The twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar, made in Spain and registered to Colorado-based Spore LTD, landed on a runway and veered into the grass.
The plane initially had two people on board. First responders told Nexstar’s WNCN that one person onboard the plane was taken to Duke Hospital with minor injuries.
Shortly after the plane landed, local emergency units began searching for a co-pilot who either fell or jumped from the plane without a parachute while it was in the air.
Authorities were later flagged down by someone who heard a noise in their yard. The co-pilot, 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks, was then found dead in the Sonoma Springs Neighborhood, roughly 30 miles south of the airport.
Flight tracking software shows the plane initially took off from Raeford, North Carolina, at 1:10 p.m. Friday. The plane circled around Raeford before heading toward Raleigh, a roughly 80-mile trip.
Before arriving in Raeford, flight tracking software shows the aircraft took off from the Rocky Mount/Wilson Airport, about 50 miles west of Raleigh, at 11:52 a.m. and landed at Raeford West Airport at 12:34 p.m.
According to a newly-obtained recording, the co-pilots called air traffic control to inform them that the main right wheel of the landing gear had fallen off. One of the co-pilots said they attempted to land at Raeford and they “made a hard landing, decided to go around, and at that point, we lost the wheel.”
While in-flight, one of the co-pilots called Fayetteville Air Traffic Control for help rerouting to Raleigh-Durham International. You can hear one of them say “We’ve lost our right wheel – we’d like to proceed to Raleigh and make a landing.”
During the conversation, one of the men from the plane said they had enough fuel to fly in the air for another four hours before having to land. Someone eventually responded, “Quick question, how do you intend to land at Raleigh-Durham?” The response from one of the men was, “Get as low as we can and I guess we’re going to put it on the belly.”
In a later radio call with officials, the pilot of the plane said his co-pilot, Charles Hew Crooks, had jumped from the plane without a parachute.
Multiple first responders headed to the airport after the plane landed on the runway. The pilot was taken to the hospital, where officials said he was okay.
It’s still unclear why Hew Crooks fell from the plane. Local and state officials are now working with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, both of which are now leading the investigation.