RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Many questions still linger after a plane made an emergency landing Friday at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the body of copilot Charles Crooks was found in a nearby neighborhood.
There are some clues about the moments leading up to that emergency landing in calls made to air traffic control.
“Emergency, we’ve lost our right wheel, we’d like to proceed to Raleigh and made a landing at Raleigh,” one pilot can be heard saying to air traffic controllers. It’s unclear whether it’s Crooks speaking or the other pilot on board, who has not yet been identified.
From there, the speaking pilot calmly explains what happened.
“We were attempting 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 man can be heard saying.
At no point in that recording does the pilot say a person jumped or fell from the plane. But on another recording, emergency crews say a person, later identified as Crooks, jumped from the plane at some point.
“We have one subject, did jump out of the aircraft, no parachute, we’ll try to determine a location on where that subject may be,” the first responder can be heard saying. They continued to say, “Command, we have a soul number two jumped from the aircraft, unknown location, did not have a parachute.”
While that official says Crooks jumped from the plane, questions remain about whether he actually fell somehow. FlightAware’s tracking system shows the aircraft’s journey from Raeford to Raleigh. It was about 3,500 feet in the air when Crooks either fell or jumped. Shortly after that, the plane landed on its belly at RDU with only one pilot on board.
“Aircraft has landed, veered off the runway to the right, it’s in the grass, aircraft has remained intact, no visible fire at this point,” first responders can be heard saying.
Crooks’ body was later found in a Fuquay-Varina neighborhood. The surviving pilot was taken to Duke Medical Center.
CBS 17 spoke with several agencies, including Wake County Emergency Services, the Fuquay-Varina Police Department, and the National Transportation Safety Board, none of whom could confirm whether Crooks jumped from the plane or fell out.