Co-pilot appeared sick, apologized before exiting plane mid-flight near Raleigh airport, report says

RALEIGH — The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report Tuesday after a 23-year-old pilot fell to his death on July 29 during an emergency landing in Raleigh.

The pilot-in-command of the CASA 212-200 said he and Charles Hew Crooks, who was second-in-command, flew two skydiving runs that day, then descended to Raeford West Airport to pick up another group of sky divers.

Crooks was flying the approach in the twin-prop plane when the aircraft “dropped” after descending below the tree line, according to the NTSB.

Crooks called for a go-around maneuver after the right landing gear hit the runway.


The pilot-in-command took over the controls and flew around the Raeford airfield so ground personnel could verify any damage to the landing gear.

Workers recovered the landing gear from the runway. An emergency landing was declared.

The pilots were in contact with air traffic controllers to divert their flight to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, the report stated.

The pilot-in-command was flying the plane while Crooks communicated with air traffic control.

Crooks was “visibly upset about the hard landing,” the report said.

The pilot-in-command said Crooks opened his side cockpit window and “may have gotten sick.”

The pilot-in-command took over radio communications at about that same time.

Crooks lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane and said he “felt like he was going to be sick and needed air,” according to the NTSB.

(Watch the video below: VIDEO: Twin-engine plane makes emergency landing at Raleigh airport; 1 hurt, 1 missing)

The pilot-in-command, who was still at the flight controls, stated that the co-pilot got up, took off his headset, apologized and “departed” from the ramp door without a parachute.

The pilot turned the plane to search for his co-pilot.

The aircraft made the emergency landing without the landing gear, veering off the right side of the runway before stopping on the grass, the NTSB said.

The pilot was taken to Duke Hospital with minor injuries.

Crooks body was found 20 miles away from the airport in a Fuquay-Varina neighborhood, officials earlier said.

The airplane was retained for further examination by the NTSB.

No further information was released Tuesday.