Charles Hew Crooks, a 23-year-old pilot, was dropping skydivers out of a twin-engine plane for a private company in North Carolina when the landing gear suffered damage. There were no skydivers on the plane when Crooks and his co-pilot noticed the damage, as they prepared for an emergency landing.
The co-pilots notified air traffic control and started heading toward the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. They were flying at about 3,500 feet when the plane encountered some turbulence. Not long after, Crooks told his co-pilot he wasn’t feeling well and apologized before excusing himself from the cockpit.
At the time, the rear ramp was open for ventilation. At some point after leaving the cockpit, Crooks allegedly fell out the back of the plane without a parachute – falling several thousand feet to his death. His co-pilot, who hasn’t been identified, landed on a nearby field to begin the search for Crooks’ fallen body.
Roughly five hours after the co-pilot landed the plane, Crooks’ body was found after a resident heard a loud noise in their yard in Fuquay-Varina – southwest of Raleigh. Now four months later, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina has finally released the autopsy report with a cause of death.
The autopsy report ruled Crooks’ death an accident after suffering multiple blunt force injuries from the fall. There was no alcohol or drugs (amphetamines, cocaine, opioids, etc.) in his body at the time of his death and, despite not feeling well before the fall, he was free of any significant diseases or illnesses.
The co-pilot is the only one who can at least start to explain what happened on that fateful day – though he only knows so much. According to his account, Crooks seemed ‘visibly upset’ after the mid-flight emergency that damaged the landing gear. Crooks apologized to his co-pilot before saying he felt sick.
Before exiting the cockpit, Crooks had stopped communicating with air traffic controllers – this was about the same time he opened the window, either for ventilation or to vomit from the sickness. According to the co-pilot, Crooks didn’t attempt to reach for a safety bar, which was about six feet above the rear ramp.
Charles Hew Crooks Had a Strong Passion for Flying
Charles Hew Crooks was just 23 years old when he died on July 29th. He always had a passion and interest in taking to the skies before finally pursuing his dream. He received his pilot’s license in college and was working as a flight instructor for well over a year at the time of his death. He loved his life.
“He pursued his private pilot license while he was in college. I think he got that when he was a sophomore. He said a couple of weeks ago, he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was,” said Crooks’ father, adding he has no idea what happened, but they’ll figure it out soon.
As for Crooks’ co-pilot, he only suffered minor injuries after successfully and safely landing the plane in a nearby open field. He was taken to the hospital but was released later that day – which is when he began speaking with authorities. Our hearts and prayers are with everyone involved in this tragic incident.
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“We’re a strong family, and we’re a very loving family. But this, it leaves a hole. I don’t know. We can’t process it right now,” his father continued. While they now know his death was ruled an accident, one can’t even begin to imagine the pain this family is feeling – especially when his death came so suddenly.
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