Autopsy sheds new light on death of pilot who exited plane without parachute

A newly obtained autopsy report sheds light on a North Carolina pilot who fell out of a plane and landed in a backyard.

Charles Hew Crooks, 23, suffered multiple blunt force trauma injuries, broken bones, and damage to the lungs and heart when he plunged from a small plane in July.

The autopsy, obtained by NBC News, did not show any trace of drugs or alcohol in the man’s system.

On 29 July, Crooks and a co-pilot were flying a CASA CN-212 Aviocar plane for a private company, ferrying multiple trips of skydivers.

Returning from their second trip, the plane suddenly “dropped” below the treeline on the way into Raeford West Airport, according to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report.

The pilots told controllers they would attempt a “go-around maneuver,” but before they could begin climbing back up, one of the plane’s landing gear struck the runway.

The pilots then called for an emergency diversion to Raleigh Durham International Airport.

About 20 minutes later, Crooks became “visibly upset” according to his co-pilot, and stopped communicating with air traffic controllers.

Then, the 23-year-old "told the pilot that he felt he was going to be sick and apologized. He then departed the cockpit towards the open rear ramp; at some point, the pilot realized that he had apparently fallen from the aircraft."

The autopsy ultimately ruled the death an accident, noting "it was concluded that the decedent had gone aft, likely to vomit from the open ramp, and accidentally fallen from the aircraft," the autopsy reads.

The man’s co-pilot alerted officials, searched by air for his comrade, then safely landed the plane in a grassy area near the Raleigh airport.

“He pursued his private pilot license while he was in college. I think he got that when he was a sophomore,” Crooks’ father, Hew Crooks, told NBC affiliate WRAL. “He said a couple weeks ago he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was.”

“I can’t imagine what happened,” he added. “We’ll figure it out, I suppose.”