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North Carolina CASA-212 Pilot’s Death Deemed Accidental

Autopsy Report Negative for Drugs-Alcohol

On 29 July 2022, while serving as Second In Command (SIC) aboard a CASA-212 (N497CA), Charles Hew Crooks began an approach to North Carolina’s Raeford West Airport (NR20). Prior to touchdown, the approach destabilized, prompting Crooks and the Pilot in Command (PIC)—the identity of whom remains undisclosed—to abort the procedure and advise Air Traffic Control (ATC) that they were going around. However, before Crooks could establish a positive rate of climb, the CASA forcefully impacted the runway.

Exercising command privilege, the Pilot In Command (PIC) took control of the aircraft from Crooks, and instructed the latter to declare an emergency and request a diversion to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU). The decision to divert was predicated in part upon radio reports from ground personnel who informed the air-crew that the CASA’s fractured right main landing-gear assembly had been recovered from NR20’s active runway.

Enroute RDU, Crooks reportedly comported himself professionally, communicating with ATC and competently performing his SIC duties.

During a post-incident deposition before the NTSB, the CASA’s PIC asserted that Crooks was “on heading, altitude and airspeed” until the airplane descended below the tree line and “dropped.”

Approximately twenty-minutes into the diversion, Crooks complained of feeling ill and may—according to the PIC—have opened his window and vomited. The PIC’s supposition is plausible insomuch as the CASA-212 is not a pressurized aircraft. Shortly thereafter, Crooks reportedly stated he needed air, opened the CASA’s rear ramp, made his way aft, and stepped from the aircraft.

Crooks was found deceased approximately thirty-miles south of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the city of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. His body was recovered from a tree in the backyard of a private residence.

The PIC circled back to search for Crooks—albeit to no avail—then proceeded to RDU where he performed a successful emergency landing.

On or about 01 December 2022, a Raleigh, North Carolina television station obtained a copy of Charles Hew Crooks’s autopsy file, in which the medical examiner of record certified that neither drugs nor alcohol were present in the young pilot’s system at the time of his death. The report did, however, cite a large number of broken bones and mortal damage to Crooks’s lungs and heart. The cause of death, therefore, was ascribed to blunt-force trauma, and Crooks’s passing was ruled an accident.

In addition to setting forth pertinent, objective medical findings, the report read: "It was concluded that the decedent had gone aft, likely to vomit from the open ramp, and accidentally fallen from the aircraft.”



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