North Carolina pilot, 23, dies after falling or jumping from plane with landing gear problems – NBCNEWS

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Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was found dead in a backyard in North Carolina after

A 23-year-old pilot died after falling or jumping from a small plane after landing gear malfunctioned.

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Charles Hew Crooks was found Friday in Fuquay-Varina after a confusing search for law enforcement agencies involving multiple provincial, state and federal agencies.

He was flying the small plane with an unnamed copilot when it malfunctioned with the landing gear.

The plane later made an emergency landing at a local airport, taking the copilot for hospital treatment.

The aircraft is licensed by Spore LTD LLC, which is operated by Rampart Aviation, an organization that provides pilot and aircraft training for the Department of Defense.

Mystery now surrounds Crook’s tragic death; whether he fell from the plane — possibly while trying to solve the problem — or whether he chose to jump.

He was not wearing a parachute at the time of the dive.

His father, Hew Crooks, is stunned by the tragedy and says that Charles, who was his eldest son, was happy.

Hew told WRAL that Crooks recently told him that “he wouldn’t trade with anyone in the world. He loved where he was.’

Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was found dead in a backyard in North Carolina after “abandoning” a plane that was forced to make an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham Airport on Friday.

The plane landed on a runway before hitting the grass, although the pilot on board survived with only minor injuries.  The pilot said 'we've lost our right wheel' to air traffic control before landing

The plane landed on a runway before hitting the grass, although the pilot on board survived with only minor injuries. The pilot said ‘we’ve lost our right wheel’ to air traffic control before landing

This map shows the area of ​​North Carolina where Crooks' body was found after the plane he was flying made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham Airport

This map shows the area of ​​North Carolina where Crooks’ body was found after the plane he was flying made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham Airport

Crooks was found to have 'abandoned' the plane while airborne and landed in a backyard in Fuquay-Varina before his remains were discovered

Crooks was found to have ‘abandoned’ the plane while airborne and landed in a backyard in Fuquay-Varina before his remains were discovered

Crooks told WRAL his son’s death was still a mystery to him, adding that he “can’t imagine what happened.”

His son’s body was found when a person flagged down authorities after hearing “something” in their backyard.

According to his father, the Raleigh native obtained his pilot’s license while in college, and worked as a flight instructor because he was trained to fly in almost all conditions.

“We are a strong family and we are a very loving family. But this leaves a hole, his father said. ‘I don’t know. We can’t handle it now.’

Shortly before 3 p.m. Friday, a twin-engine turboprop aircraft reported problems with its landing gear as it approached the airport before landing on the runway and landing on the grass.

Audio from the plane revealed that the surviving copilot had contacted air traffic control and said, “We’d like to talk to Raleigh and make an emergency landing at Raleigh.”

The pilot said ‘we lost our right wheel’ for the emergency landing, which caused the airport to close until the scene was made safe.

Crooks got his pilot's license while in college, loved his job flying and

Crooks got his pilot’s license while in college, loved his job flying and “wouldn’t trade with anyone in the world,” according to his father

A tweet from a person who was at the airport when the plane made an emergency landing shows emergency services spraying the plane with water

A tweet from a person who was at the airport when the plane made an emergency landing shows emergency services spraying the plane with water

Police searched for Crooks on Friday before they were caught by a resident who heard something in their backyard.  The plane they flew was small with a capacity of about 10 passengers

Police searched for Crooks on Friday before they were caught by a resident who heard something in their backyard. The plane they flew was small with a capacity of about 10 passengers

Darshan Patel, operations manager for Wake County's emergency management, said Crooks did not have a parachute and it was unclear how high the plane was when he

Darshan Patel, operations manager for Wake County emergency management, said Crooks did not have a parachute and it was unclear how high the plane was when he “got off.”

The small aircraft had a capacity of approximately 10 passengers and was not on a commercial flight at the time of the incident.

The other pilot, the only other person on board, was taken to Duke Hospital with minor injuries and was released Friday night.

Darshan Patel, operations manager for emergency management in Wake County, said at a news conference “we wanted a better outcome.”

The man reportedly did not have a parachute, and Patel said he did not know if Crooks jumped or fell from the plane.

Patel didn’t know the plane’s exact altitude when Crooks exited the plane, but flight maps suggest the plane was at about 3,850 feet.

The plane crossed Hilltop Needmore Road around 2:30 p.m. Friday, near where Crooks’ body was found.

Patel posed questions about the incident to the RDU, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

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