NTSB Says FO’s Fatal Plunge Could Have Been An Accident


The NTSB says there’s no conclusive evidence a young first officer intentionally jumped from a plane even though the captain reported it that way. Therefore, the board listed the cause of an emergency landing of the CASA C-212 skydiving plane at Raleigh Durham International Airport on July 29, 2022 as “the airplane’s encounter with windshear during landing, which resulted in a hard landing and separation of the right main landing gear, and the pilot’s subsequent decision to leave his seat in flight, which resulted in his fall from the airplane.”

The sensational nature of the tragedy earned it widespread coverage, especially after 911 tapes of FAA officials reporting the incident used the term “jumped” to describe the fatal fall of Charles Hew Crooks, 23, into the backyard of home in a Raleigh suburb. The FAA employees were relaying the perception of the aircraft captain in his radio calls to set up for the emergency landing of the twin, which was missing its right main gear. The report said that although that was the pilot’s impression, based on the demeanor of the FO just before the fatal fall, it couldn’t find that the fall was suicide. The gear broke off in the aborted landing attempt at a small airport in North Carolina, possibly due to wind shear. Crooks was flying at the time and the captain took over and diverted to Raleigh for the longer runway and emergency equipment.

In his initial interviews with authorities, the captain, who was also the charter company’s chief pilot, reported the FO said he was feeling ill and opened a side flight deck window and the rear ramp door to ventilate the aircraft. Shortly after that, according to the NTSB report, the captain then told investigators “the SIC looked at him and said he was sorry, got up from his seat, removed his headset, and ran out of the airplane via the aft ramp door.” The captain also said Crooks had previously become disproportionately emotional when he misplaced a company fuel payment card.

But friends, relatives and other coworkers told investigators they were not concerned about Crooks’s mental state although he had told family and the owner of the aircraft that he considered the flight an important one because it was with the chief pilot. The toxicology report noted the presence of the chemical mitragynine in his body, indicating he’d taken kratom, an herbal supplement sometimes used to ease anxiety. The NTSB said it considered all that in concluding that it was possible the pilot “lost his footing” while racing for the open ramp door to vomit. It was turbulent at the time of the accident, the board also noted.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


    • There’s mountains of evidence of what you did last week. Probably every trip you made and every keystroke on the internet. Texts, emails, tracking cookies, vehicle data. Security cameras on every other property, neighbors.

  1. FO wanting to puke out of range of the Chief pilot and the cockpit and slipping in major turbulence out the jump door seems the most plausible and likely reason. Makes more sense than getting up and making a beeline to the door for a freewill jump to his death. Accident is much more plausible.

    Thank you Russ and Avweb for following up on this story.

  2. In a feel-good society nothing bad happens intentionally. It is all by accident.

    Or the will of God. Which should not be questioned.

    • Not to mention the critical thinking skills and the intestinal fortitude to acknowledge that one does not have enough information to draw a conclusion and may never know the correct answer.

    • Gosh, who should we believe? Experienced investigators with evidence or an anonymous misanthrope on the internet? LOL.

  3. Any way one looks at this accident it is sad and difficult to explain rationally without further evidence. For the family the most difficult thing is not knowing…

  4. As it can never be proven what actually happened at that jump door, it is good of the investigation team to leave that part open to interpretation. There is a lot of (mostly circumstantial) evidence leaning towards a suicide scenario though. I wonder (have not read the report yet) whether the company culture and any previous measures taken towards the unfortunate co-pilot have been looked into. In the end, it remains as a very sad outcome of what was supposed to be a regular flight (but then… aren’t they all…).

  5. I once was running to puke in toilet once on a hardwood floor but did not make it and when it spewed from my mouth and I tried to stop I slipped, fell and then slip quite a ways. Thankfully this was in my home instead of that plane. I do not know what kind of flooring is in that plane, but it sounds possible to me. Also I have read that statistically successful suicides are not the first attempt.

  6. Regardless of the actual cause, which may never be known, this individual was perhaps someone’s father, husband, b red other, and definitely someone’s son, grandson, etc. As one who has lost two children, the cause doesn’t really matter. The result is the pain of the loss of a loved one. We, with our senses dulled by current media platforms, tend to sensationalize situations that are indeed tragic, if only to a few. May he rest in peace.

  7. It’s never surprised how heartless internet comments are when tragedy strikes a family. No compassion or empathy for a tragedy or reflection on comments that would not stand up in court (did you actually see….).

    • Although same social media acts in that way, the truth is that, IMHO, mostly of mankind is worst than the others animals.

  8. Besides, other than to any life-insurance company that might be involved, what does it matter? We see reports of fatal crashes with no obvious “probable cause” and don’t just assume the pilot was suicidal. This is just the prurience of tabloid journalism sticking its ugly head up and whispering, “Hey… did’ja know … I heard …”