A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board is offering new insight into the final moments of a North Carolina co-pilot who exited his plane mid-air last month.
According to the report, the pilot-in-command told investigators that after having flown two skydiving runs on July 29, they were on their way to pick up a third group when their airplane "descended below the tree line and dropped." At the time, the co-pilot — previously identified by authorities as Charles Hew Crooks, 23, of Raleigh — was flying.
Before the co-pilot could "initiate a climb," the plane's landing gear struck a runway, the report stated. The commanding pilot then took over the flight controls and requested permission to make an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
About 20 minutes after the "hard landing," the commanding pilot reported that Crooks "became visibly upset," according to the report.
Following his final transmission with air traffic control, Crooks "opened his side cockpit window" and "may have gotten sick," federal officials wrote in the report. After the commanding pilot took over radio communications, Crooks "lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane" and indicated that he "felt like he was going to be sick and needed air," the report stated.
Upon exiting his seat, Crooks "removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane" through the opening, according to the report.
The commanding pilot told investigators that "there was a bar one could grab about 6 ft above the ramp," but that he did not witness Crooks grabbing it, the report states.
Afterwards, the pilot informed air traffic control that Crooks "had departed the airplane without a parachute," and searched for him before making an emergency landing.
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Federal officials wrote in the report that an examination of the airplane "revealed substantial damage to the RMLG, landing gear fittings, and the airframe structure where the fittings attach."
The plane was retained for additional examination.
Wake County Emergency Management previously told PEOPLE that the Fuquay-Varina Police Department recovered the co-pilot's body in a nearby backyard hours after the plane landed.
The commanding pilot, who has not been identified, was treated and released from a local hospital, NBC affiliate WRAL previously reported.
Hew Crooks, the co-pilot's father, previously told WRAL that his son began pursuing his private pilot license in college and had been working as a flight instructor for over a year.
"He said a couple weeks ago, he wouldn't trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was," he told the outlet. "I can't imagine what happened."