Pilot in North Carolina mysteriously dies after exiting plane and falling 3,500 feet, authorities say

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Corrections & clarifications: A prior version of this story misspelled the name of the co-pilot who died.

A co-pilot died after exiting a plane that later made an emergency landing in North Carolina, authorities said.

Around 2:40 p.m. Friday, a twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar landed in a grassy area at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement to USA TODAY. The pilot made an emergency landing after reporting that one of the wheels had come off the landing gear.

There were two pilots on board when the plane took off, but only one when it landed.

The twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar after it landed on a grass area  at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
The twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar after it landed on a grass area at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Multiple agencies then canvassed the surrounding area, attempting to locate the second passenger. On Friday night, the Fuquay-Varina Police Department announced the discovery of the deceased body of the second pilot, identified as 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks, roughly 30 miles away from the airport.

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"A resident flagged it down. I don't know if it's directly in their property, but is behind a residential property where this individual was found," Wake County Emergency Management Chief of Operations Darshan Patel told reporters.

Authorities said they weren't sure if Crooks had exited or fallen out of the plane during the flight, but Patel added "there was no indication" he was wearing a parachute. At a news conference, Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Brandon Medina said Crooks had fallen about 3,500 feet, but investigators have not determined if he died on descent or on impact.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident, as well as local and state authorities.

The pilot who landed the plane was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries and later released, WRAL reported.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: North Carolina pilot dead after exiting plane making emergency landing