A YouTuber and former Olympian has been accused of deliberately crashing his plane in California to get attention on social media.
Trevor Jacob, a former US Olympic snowboarder turned social media star, stirred controversy after he uploaded a YouTube video titled “I Crashed My Plane” on Christmas Eve last year.
Mr Jacob filmed the entire incident using GoPro cameras attached to different parts of the single-engine aircraft and had one camera on his person as well.
In the video, Mr Jacob can be seen parachuting out of the plane and filming the aircraft crashing into the foothills of the Los Padres National Forest.
Mr Jacob said the crash was because of an “engine failure”, but aviation enthusiasts who examined the video have raised questions over whether the plane, which appeared to be in need of maintenance, was crashed on purpose.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board have now launched a joint investigation into the crash, a spokesperson for the FAA confirmed to The Independent. They referred any queries about the investigation to the NTSB, while an NTSB spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions.
Trevor Jacob stirred controversy after he uploaded a YouTube video titled “I Crashed My Plane” on Christmas eve last year
In the video, which has been viewed more than 1 million times, Jacob’s Taylorcraft BL6 appears to lose power and stall mid-air.
“During the flight, I experienced an engine failure over some mountains,” Mr Jacob stated in the video. “There was no safe space to land.”
Already wearing his parachute, Mr Jacob exited the plane which then lost altitude and crashed into the wilderness.
“This is why I always fly with a parachute,” Mr Jacob said as he trekked back to the wreckage site and hiked in the darkness until he found a farmer who he said saved his life.
Many commenting below the video questioned why Mr Jacob appeared to have acquired a plane for the journey that was already in such poor shape. Duct tape could be seen on its dashboard in the video and there were brown water stains on the plane’s exterior.
Comments on the video have since been turned off, but some aviation enthusiasts have produced their own reaction and explainer videos questioning Mr Jacob’s motives.
Several YouTubers highlighted Mr Jacob’s claim that he “always wears a parachute”, noting other videos where the former Olympian does not appear to be wearing one. They also pointed out that pilots of small aircraft generally do not fly with parachutes because of space constraints.
The Santa Barbara Independent reported that officials at Lompoc City airport said the plane appeared to be in a state of disrepair and required maintenance.
And airport sources said that when Mr Jacob returned after a few days to tell officials about the crash, he was informed that the incident had to be reported to the FAA. He then reportedly hired a helicopter to go to the crash site to dispose of the plane wreckage.
Mr Jacob had said he was flying the plane from Lompoc City airport in Santa Barbara to Mammoth Lakes to spread the ashes of his friend Johnny Strange, who died last year in a base jumping accident in Switzerland.
Mr Jacob has not yet commented publicly on the backlash, and did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.