A 911 call from air traffic controllers suggests a co-pilot may have jumped to his death from a damaged plane before the other pilot made an emergency landing.
It’s been unclear exactly how or why Charles Hew Crooks, 23, exited the small cargo plane on Friday afternoon (local time) about 48 kilometres south of an International Airport in North Carolina.
He did not have a parachute, and his body was found in a backyard in the town of Fuquay-Varina.
In the 911 call, two unnamed Federal Aviation Administration employees can be heard telling a dispatcher that the plane was heading to the airport.
Haunting 13 minutes on emergency call
The pilot on board had apparently told them his co-pilot had “jumped out of the aircraft” without a parachute.
“We have a pilot that was inbound to the field,” a controller told the 911 dispatcher, according to WRAL.
“His co-pilot jumped out of the aircraft. He made impact to the ground and here are the coordinates.”
The call, which resulted in a search for Mr Crooks, lasted about 13 minutes with the controllers stating several times that the co-pilot had jumped.
According to preliminary information gathered by the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane sustained substantial damage to its landing gear and fuselage. The investigation is ongoing.
Mr Crooks fell over 1000 metres in the air and landed in the backyard of a family home, at the base of a fallen tree.
Emily Osborn said she heard branches snap from the woods behind her home and she only later realised the noise was caused by Mr Crooks' falling body.
“I can’t look at that tree,” Ms Osborn told The News and Observer.
“I can’t go in my backyard.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.