Family of pilot, who died after exiting plane during mid-flight emergency, left reeling, father says

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The father of a North Carolina pilot, who died after exiting a plane during a mid-flight emergency, said his family is still trying to reckon with what led to the 23-year-old’s death.

Charles Hew Crooks had spent years working toward his dream of becoming a pilot, his father Hew Crooks told NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh.

Now, Crooks said his family is left wondering what led to his son’s death.

Charles Hew Crooks. (WRAL)Charles Hew Crooks. (WRAL)

Charles Hew Crooks. (WRAL)

“We can’t process it right now,” Crooks told WRAL. “I don’t know.”

The body of Charles Hew Crooks, who was co-piloting the flight, was found in a Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, backyard on Saturday — one day after the incident.

An unidentified family told WRAL that they were home and heard a loud thud in their backyard on Friday. Although they didn’t see anything at the time, police showed up and later found the pilot’s body in the trees of their backyard.

Charles Hew Crooks was not wearing a parachute and it’s unclear why he exited the plane, said Wake County emergency management spokesperson Darshan Patel on Friday. Officials said they believe he either fell or jumped out of the plane.

Charles Hew Crooks was onboard a twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar with another pilot when it took off on Friday. The pilot onboard with Charles Hew Crooks asked to make an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after having an issue with landing gear, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The plane touched down around 2:40 p.m. and the pilot sustained minor injuries,

“I can’t imagine what happened,” Crooks told WRAL. “We’ll figure it out, I suppose.”

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 a sophomore,” Hew Crooks said. “He said a couple weeks ago, he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was.”

Crooks said his son was certified to fly in any condition and had previously been a flight instructor. He said the loss of his son has left an irreparable void in the family.

“We’re a strong family and we’re a very loving family. But this, it leaves a hole,” he said.