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A North Carolina pilot died in mysterious circumstances on Friday afternoon, officials said.
Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was one of two people aboard the small 10-person plane on Friday, but he landed with just one person in Wake County, North Carolina, WRAL reported.
Authorities say Crooks jumped or fell from the plane in the air without a parachute.
According to the report, the remaining co-pilot made a safe emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after reporting to air traffic control that the plane had lost its right wheel and was flown to the airport. hospital with minor injuries.
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Dozens of first responders were at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and several other officers surveyed the area and the plane’s flight path to search for Crooks’ body.
Her body was found later that evening, around 7 p.m., in the woods behind a residential area of Fuquay-Varina, about 30 miles from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, authorities said.
Police later said the body landed about 30 to 40 feet from a house and its residents alerted law enforcement who were scouring the area.
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Wake County Emergency Management Operations Chief Darshan Patel told a group of reporters that residents contacted law enforcement after they “heard something in their backyard.”
At a press conference that evening, Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Brandon Medina said Crooks’ body fell at least 3,500 feet. He said it was not immediately clear if the pilot died before the crash, but authorities were continuing to investigate the incident.
Chief Medina did not say whether the investigation was being treated as a criminal investigation, only that the situation was “unique”.
“I believe this was a first for many of us working on this incident today,” Patel added.
Crooks recently obtained his pilot’s license and enjoys flying, his family said, WRAL reported.
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Asked about the death, Hew Crooks, the deceased pilot’s father, said: “We can’t process it at the moment, I don’t know.”
“He pursued his private pilot’s license while he was in college. I think he got it when he was a sophomore,” Crooks added. “He said a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world. He liked where he was.”
Regarding the mysterious details surrounding the death, the father said he “cannot imagine what happened”.
“We’ll find a solution, I guess,” he concluded.
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The surviving co-pilot was discharged from hospital after being treated for minor injuries, WRAL reported.
The police chief said National Transportation Safety Board investigators are leading the investigation. Federal, state and local authorities are participating in the investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.