Questions remain over how co-pilot exited midair near Raleigh – WSOC TV

Man dies after jumping from plane before landing near Raleigh; pilot hospitalized, officials say

MORRISVILLE, North Carolina – A twin-engine cargo plane made an emergency landing Friday at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after reporting problems with the landing gear and a search for the co-pilot who jumped off before the end of landing with a recovery of a body, according to Wake County officials.

ABC 11, Channel 9’s sister station in Raleigh, reported a man jumped from the plane before it made its emergency landing near Raeford after a wheel came off the landing gear.

There are now questions about his exact exit from the plane. The conversation between the aircraft and air traffic control can be heard in 40 minutes registration, ABC 11 reported Saturday night.

“Emergency, we have lost our right wheel, we would like to continue to Raleigh and make a landing in Raleigh,” said a pilot. “We were trying to land, we made contact with the ground, had a hard landing and decided to go around, and at that point we lost the wheel.”

The CASA C-212 Aviocar, manufactured in Spain in 1983, landed on runway 5R-23L at RDU around 2:40 p.m. and veered into the grass. The pilot on board was transported to Duke Hospital with minor injuries, according to RDU first responders.

“How do you plan to land in Raleigh-Durham? asked air traffic control. “Go as slow as you can… Guess we’ll put him on his stomach,” the caller said.

After the emergency landing, the pilot was taken to Duke Hospital with minor injuries and has since been released.

The body of co-pilot Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was found 20 miles from the airport in a neighborhood of Fuquay-Varina.

Several inhabitants says ABC 11 they heard the accident, one of them being a person who realized it was in his garden.

“Honestly, I thought it was someone slamming the lid on their trash can or something because it was quite loud,” the eyewitness said.

The pilot told authorities that the co-pilot on board had jumped before the landing attempt, according to ABC 11 reports. The jumper was initially thought to have exited the plane to a body of water near West Lake Middle School in Apex.

Another resident who lives two doors down from where Crooks was found nearby called it a “surreal” experience.

“I guess I don’t know if we’ll really find out, but it’s just crazy” Matt Stone says ABC 11. “If he had jumped a second sooner, he could have been here in my kid’s playset. Just a million things, and the sadness about it, being a 23-year-old guy who got probably woke up that day, had breakfast, ready to fly a plane.

Several agencies took part in the massive search before it ended on Friday evening. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation, but questions remain about how Crooks got out during the flight.

Wake County authorities said Friday there was no evidence he had a parachute with him.

“Maybe he fell, or he jumped, I don’t know,” an eyewitness said. “But I felt remorse for his family.”

The aircraft landed after being unable to open its right landing gear, but the left landing gear appeared to be working properly. The plane is owned by Spore LTD LLC in Colorado Springs and took off from Raeford.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident. RDU’s runway 5R-23L was reopened on Saturday and the airport resumed normal operations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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