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NTSB investigates mysterious death of co-pilot who ejected from plane in mid-air in North Carolina

The National Transportation Safety Board he said on Tuesday that an investigation has been launched after the co-pilot of a small cargo plane died Friday after falling from the plane in North Carolina before making an emergency landing.

CBS affiliate WNCN-TV reported that the body of the co-pilot, 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks, was found in a yard in the town of Fuquay-Varina, about 30 miles south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. He had no parachute.

The pilot made an emergency landing at the airport on Friday afternoon after reporting that one of the wheels had come off the landing gear of the CASA 212-200 plane. He was treated and released from the hospital with minor injuries.

The pilot was the only person on board the turboprop aircraft when it landed.

Calls to air traffic control reveals some clues about the moments leading up to that emergency landing, WNCN reported.

“Emergency, we’ve lost our right wheel, we’d like to proceed to Raleigh and land in Raleigh,” a pilot can be heard telling air traffic controllers. It is not clear whether Crooks is speaking or the other pilot on board, who has not yet been publicly identified. From there, the person explains what happened.

“We were trying to land, we made contact with the ground, we had a hard landing and we decided to go around, and at that point we lost the wheel,” the man can be heard saying.

At no point in this recording does the pilot say that a person jumped or fell from the plane. But in another recording, emergency crews can be heard saying a person, later identified as Crooks, exited the plane at some point.

Crooks’ father, Hew Crooks, he told WRAL-TV that his son had been working as a flight instructor for over a year.

“He said a few weeks ago, he wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world. He loved where he was,” she told the station, adding: “I can’t imagine what happened.”

Local and state authorities are also investigating.

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