Expert casts doubt on story of North Carolina pilot ‘jumping’ out of plane: ‘accident or nefarious?’


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A pilot and lawyer is casting doubt on a recent report that a North Carolina pilot jumped out of his damaged plane, leaving his co-pilot to conduct an emergency landing.

Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was flying a damaged aircraft with only his co-pilot onboard when he plummeted out of the plane to his death on July 29. His co-pilot told air traffic controllers that Crooks had “jumped” out of the plane, but pilot and lawyer Fred Tecce tells Fox News Digital that would be highly unlikely.

“[I] Would be astonished if he jumped out of the airplane. Any commercially rated pilot knows not to do that. He’s not a knucklehead,” Tecce said.

“Any pilot knows that a landing gear mishap is nothing. If the plane is on fire or falling then that’s a different story. I’ve had landing gear problems, and you fly around and try to troubleshoot it. It is not a big deal ever. As long as you maintain control.  Any pilot knows it’s nothing to get concerned about,” he added.

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A passenger airplane is preparing for landing.

Authorities say the plane’s landing gear was damaged at some point prior to the co-pilot’s emergency landing. Crooks had been working as a flight instructor for roughly a year at the time of the incident.

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Tecce argues that the more likely scenario is that Crooks suffered an accident while preparing for an emergency landing–or something “nefarious” happened.

“There could’ve been something going on between the pilot and co-pilot or he may have tried to open the door in anticipation. On that airplane with the door, you get yanked or pulled out with the door. He could’ve slipped or fallen,” Tecce said. “Was his departing the aircraft an accident or nefarious?”

“The pilot is going to be facing a lot of questioning,” he added. “It will be interesting if he lawyers up because right now there is no evidence he did something wrong.”

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The co-pilot has not been named. Police are still investigating the incident but have not stated the inquiry is criminal in nature.

Crooks’ father was at a loss for why his son might have jumped from the aircraft.

“He said a couple weeks ago, he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was,” he told WRAL. “I can’t imagine what happened.”

Fox News Digital’s Ashley Bittay contributed to this report.



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