A 23-year-old man who ‘got out’ of a plane on Friday afternoon before it made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport was found dead around 7 p.m. Friday in Fuquay-Varina , authorities said.
After a massive search involving multiple city, county and federal agencies, the man’s body was found behind a house near Sunset Lake and Hilltop Needmore roads, said Darshan Patel, operations manager for county emergency management. of Wake, during a press briefing.
On Friday evening, the man was identified as Charles Hew Crooks of Raleigh, according to a post on the Fuquay-Varina Police Department’s Facebook page. Earlier Friday, Patel did not identify Crooks but said he was 23.
Crooks was the plane’s co-pilot, the Fuquay-Varina Police Department said.
Patel and Fuquay-Varina police say Crooks was found after a resident of the Sonoma Springs subdivision reported search parties that were already near the neighborhood.
It was the tragic end to a puzzling emergency at RDU on Friday. Shortly before 3 p.m., a twin-engine turboprop aircraft reported landing gear problems on approach to the airport, according to the airport. The plane landed on runway 5R-23L and turned into grass, according to the airport.
The pilot, the only passenger on the plane when it reached the ground, was taken to Duke University Hospital with minor injuries, an airport spokesperson said.
Authorities received a report of the missing man around 2:30 or 2:45 p.m., Patel said. Around 17H, Emergency services, police and firefighters were searching much of Wake County for a second person who may have ‘got out of the plane while it was in the air’, Carolyn said. Novel of the town of Cary.
Patel said the research teams had “wished for a better outcome”. He didn’t know if the man who died jumped or fell, he said. The man did not have a parachute, Patel said. He did not know how high the plane was flying when the man exited the plane, but a map of the plane’s flight path from ADS-B Exchange, a flight tracking service, suggests that the aircraft was at approximately 3,850 feet. He crossed Hilltop Needmore Road around 2:30.
Patel and the Fuquay-Varina Police Department referred questions about the investigation to RDU, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Researchers worked with RDU Airport and the FAA to map the plane’s flight plan and compare it to the pilot’s radio traffic, Patel said. Searchers deployed a drone along with an NC State Highway Patrol helicopter to survey a large area from southern Wake County to the Harnett County line, Patel said.
Searchers were narrowing their search area when the man’s body was found.
Few details on the plane’s trajectory
According to FlightAware.com, the plane took off from Raeford in Hoke County at 1:10 p.m. and landed around 2:49 p.m.
As the flight was not a commercial flight, airport officials were unsure if RDU was the intended destination.
The plane is registered with Spore LTD LLC of Colorado Springs, according to FlightAware.
According to the company’s North Carolina business registration, Spore Ltd. is operated by another company, Rampart Aviation, which provides commercial pilot and aircraft training and for the Department of Defense.
A recently uploaded photo of the plane shows a Rampart logo on the plane’s tail.
Mindy Fulton, listed as an agent for Spore Ltd. and director of human resources for Rampart on Linkedin, declined to comment when contacted by the N&O.
News & Observer reporter Teddy Rosenbluth contributed to this story.
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This story was originally published July 29, 2022 3:48 p.m.