A person without a parachute exited a twin-engine cargo plane before an emergency landing Friday afternoon at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in North Carolina.
Local media ABC 11 reported the CASA C-212 Aviocar medium cargo plane experienced landing-gear issues ahead of landing at RDU. The story took a dramatic turn and a weird one when a person exited the plane thousands of feet in the air.
Darshan Patel, the Operations Manager for Wake County Emergency Management, said law enforcement found the missing plane passenger hours after the emergency landing, around 1915 ET.
According to Patel, "There was no indication" that the 23yo man, Charles Hew Crooks, had a parachute as he exited the plane. His body was found near Sunset Lake Road and Hilltop Needmore Road in Fuquay-Varina, about 17 miles from RDU.
"We had officers that were responding in the area for the search and were flagged down by a resident. They had heard something in their backyard which led to us finding this individual," Patel said.
Before Crooks exited the aircraft (the reason remains a mystery), there was only one other passenger: the pilot.
"At this time, what we know is that the passenger was wearing tan pants and a logo-branded shirt," Patel said. "We don't have the color, but that's all the description we have at this time. We are working with RDU and the FAA and the pilot."
A video of the emergency landing was posted by ABC 11.
Internet sleuths tracked the C-212 (tail number "N497CA" that took off from nearby Raeford West Airport, where the pilot reported landing gear issues.
Rampart Avn CASA 212 (N497CA, built 1983) was damaged in an emergency landing on runway 23L at Raleigh-Durham Intl (KRDU), NC. Pilots reported gear issues after take-off at Raeford West and diverted to RDU. No injuries reported.https://t.co/xeFZsB8jti pic.twitter.com/hLlRqw6vtp— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) July 29, 2022
Flight tracking service Flightradar24 shows the cargo plane was at an altitude of 4,000 feet when the man fell or jumped out.
ABC 11 pointed out the plane is registered to Spore LTD LLC in Colorado Springs, which is connected with Rampart Aviation, a special-forces veteran-owned business that conducts aviation support operations across the U.S. and internationally.
FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are searching for answers to why the young man exited the plane without a parachute.