The 23-year-old co-pilot, Charles Hew Crooks, presumed to have jumped off a plane without a parachute, has been confirmed dead as his body was recently found. The plane had suffered from an unforeseen malfunction as the twin-engine turboprop aircraft reported landing gear issues as it neared the airport Friday afternoon. This plane was a CASA C-212 Aviocar, made in Spain in 1983. Before the other pilot could work on an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Charles Hew had “exited” the plane without taking the proper measures.
The plane had departed from Raeford in Hoke County at 1:10 pm and landed at about 2:49 pm, but its destination could not be monitored because it was not a commercial flight as the only two passengers were the pilots. Fortunately for the pilot, he successfully landed the plane into the grass on Runway 5R-23L. His successful landing means Charles Crooks would have survived if he stayed put. Immediately after the plane reached the ground, the pilot was taken to Duke University hospital for treatment, where it was confirmed that he had only suffered minor injuries.
The authorities were immediately alerted about Charles, and a search party by the police, EMS, and the fire department started around 5 pm throughout Wake County. Darshan Patel, the operations manager for Wake County emergency management, said at a news briefing that the searchers had worked with the RDU Airport and the FAA to map the flight’s plan and compare it to the pilot’s radio traffic. He added that they had deployed a drone and an N.C State Highway Patrol helicopter to comb areas of the county.
Unfortunately, after about 2 hours, Charles’s body was found behind a house near sunset Lake and Hilltop Needmore roads by a Fuquay-Varina resident who flagged down searchers. “We had officers that were responding in the area for the search and were flagged down by a resident. They had heard something in their backyard which led to us finding this individual,” Patel said. He also added that the search crew had “wished for a better outcome.” Following the investigation, they were able to identify the body found as that of Charles Hew, and with the assistance of the City-County Bureau of Identification, they were also able to locate Charles’s next of kin.
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Patel and the police department of Fuquay-Varina had put off questions on the investigation of the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety board. However, he mentioned that he was not sure if Charles had jumped down or fallen off. He added that Charles did not have a parachute when this happened but did not know how high up the plane was. A map from a flight tracking service, ADS-B Exchange, suggests that the aircraft was at about 3,850 feet and crossed Hilltop Needmore Road at about 2;30 pm.
It was made known to the public that NTSB and FAA would be taking the lead on this investigation with the support of the police department, but no further detail was provided.