The father of a North Carolina pilot who died after exiting a plane during a mid-flight emergency says his family is still trying to figure out what led to the 23-year-old’s death .
Charles Hew Crooks had spent years pursuing his dream of becoming a pilot, his father Hew Crooks told NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh.
Now Crooks said his family wonders what led to his son’s death.
“We can’t process it at this time,” Crooks told WRAL. “I do not know.”
The body of Charles Hew Crooks, who co-piloted the flight, was found in a backyard in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, on Saturday, a day after the incident.
An unidentified family told WRAL they were at home and heard a thud in their garden on Friday. Although they saw nothing at the time, the police showed up and later found the pilot’s body in the trees in their backyard.
Charles Hew Crooks was not wearing a parachute and it is unclear why he exited the plane, Wake County Emergency Management spokesman Darshan Patel said Friday. Officials said they believe he fell or jumped from the plane.
Charles Hew Crooks was on board a twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar with another pilot when he took off on Friday. The pilot on board with Charles Hew Crooks requested an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after having a problem with the landing gear, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The plane landed around 2:40 p.m. and the pilot was slightly injured,
“I can’t imagine what happened,” Crooks told WRAL. “We’ll find a solution, I guess.”
As authorities tried to piece together what happened, Crooks remembered his son as an avid aviator.
“He pursued his private pilot license while he was in college. I think he got that when he was in sophomore year,” Hew Crooks said. “He wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world. He liked where he was.”
Crooks said his son was certified to fly in all conditions and had previously been a flight instructor. He said the loss of his son left an irreparable void in the family.
“We are a strong family and we are a very loving family. But that leaves a hole,” he said.