23-Year-Old Man Dies After Exiting Plane Mid-Air Before Emergency Landing in North Carolina

The incident occurred last week and resulted in the death of the 23-year-old individual, described in multiple reports as the small plane's co-pilot.

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The body of a 23-year-old man was recovered in Wake County, North Carolina last week after local authorities say he exited a plane in mid-air prior to an emergency landing.

Per a report from the Associated Press, the individual—since identified as co-pilot Charles Hew Crooks—died as a result of the exit on Friday. Multiple reports, meanwhile, have posited the exit as either a fall or a jump, although exact details remain under investigation. At the time of his exit, Crooks was not outfitted with a parachute.

In flight recordings obtained and shared by WSOC-TV, one pilot is heard telling an air traffic controller that the plane (since confirmed as a twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar) had lost its right wheel after a prior landing attempt elsewhere. The pilot is heard requesting permission to proceed to Raleigh, with the controller asking how they intended to land at the airport.

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“Get as low as we can and I guess we’re gonna put it on the belly,” one pilot is heard saying in response.

Per WNCN, just one pilot was aboard the plane once it made an emergency landing at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. This pilot was treated for minor injuries. The body of the co-pilot, meanwhile, was ultimately discovered hours later about 20 miles from the airport after local authorities were alerted to a resident in the Fuquay-Varina area having heard a loud noise near their backyard.

The incident remains under investigation. On Monday, Complex reached out to reps for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). 

An FAA spokesperson directed us to a previously released statement from the agency in which it was confirmed that the emergency landing occurred around 2:40 local time. An NTSB rep said it was currently working alongside the FAA to gather information, including by evaluating the damage of the plane and other circumstances “to determine the extent of an NTSB investigation.” At the time of this writing, the rep said, “no decision has been made.”

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