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‘I Crashed My Airplane’: Pilot, skydiver, former U.S. Olympic snowboarder admits to obstructing federal probe into his YouTube stunt

Trevor Daniel Jacob, right, filmed himself parachuting out of a solo plane in a YouTube promotion called "I Crashed My Airplane" and admitted to charges of obstructing a federal investigation into the crash. (Screenshots from the video)

Trevor Daniel Jacob, right, filmed himself parachuting out of a solo plane in a YouTube promotion called “I Crashed My Airplane” and admitted to charges of obstructing a federal investigation into the crash. (Screenshots from the video)

A pilot, skydiver and former U.S. Olympic snowboarder admitted to obstructing a federal probe into his plane crash he filmed with a selfie stick while he parachuted to the ground, all for the viral video gold, before going back to the crash site and destroying the evidence, authorities said.

Trevor Daniel Jacob, 29, agreed to plead guilty Wednesday to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, officials said in a news release.

The crime carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. He is expected to make his initial court appearance in the coming weeks.

“Trevor is taking full responsibility for his mistake in judgment,” said his attorney, Keri Axel, in an email to Law&Crime on Saturday. “He hopes to move past it and to use his status as a world-class action sports athlete, entrepreneur, and influencer to be a source for good in society.”

According to his plea agreement, Jacob is an experienced pilot and skydiver who had secured a sponsorship from a company that sold various products, including a wallet. Jacob agreed to promote the company’s wallet in a YouTube video as part of the deal, officials said.

The stunt occurred on Nov. 24, 2021, when Jacob, equipped with a parachute, video camera, selfie stick, and plane mounted with several video cameras, took off from Lompoc City Airport on California’s Central Coast on a solo flight, purportedly destined for Mammoth Lakes, authorities said.

In the more than 12-minute video, which has garnered more than 3.8 million views, there are multiple views from different cameras showing him bailing out of the plane, which descends and then crashes into the side of a mountain, while he can be seen parachuting to the ground and landing in bushes.

He documents the aftermath, showing a cut on his elbow and saying, “I’m just so happy to be alive.”

And then he says, “Well, where the hell am I going to land a freakin’ plane. I’m gonna die. That’s why I always freakin’ fly with a parachute.”

Authorities said he planned the stunt and jumped about 35 minutes after taking off above the Los Padres National Forest.

The plane crashed in a dry brush in Los Padres National Forest, a stretch of mountains that extends inland from the California coast from Ventura to Monterey. Nobody was hurt.

On the ground, Jacob hiked to the wreck’s location and recovered the data containing the video recording of his flight and the plane crash, officials said. He reported the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board two days later.

In the weeks following the crash, officials said Jacob told investigators he didn’t know the wreckage’s location.

On Dec. 10, 2021, authorities said he and a friend flew to the wreckage site in a helicopter.

He secured the wreckage to the chopper and flew the downed plane to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, where the wreck was loaded onto a trailer and attached to Jacob’s pickup truck.

He drove the wreckage to the Lompoc City Airport, unloaded it in a hangar, cut it up, destroyed it, and deposited the parts into trash bins at the airport and elsewhere to try to cover it up, authorities said.

On Dec. 23, 2021, Jacob uploaded a YouTube video titled “I Crashed My Airplane,” which contained a wallet promotion and depicted him parachuting from the plane and the crash.

Jacob admitted in his plea agreement that he intended to make money through the video.

Jacob further admitted he lied to federal investigators when he submitted an aircraft accident incident report that falsely indicated that the aircraft experienced a full loss of power approximately 35 minutes after takeoff.

Jacob also lied to an FAA aviation safety inspector when he said the airplane’s engine had quit and that he could not identify any safe landing options, so he parachuted out of the plane.

The FAA revoked Jacob’s pilot license in April 2022.

His Team USA Olympic bio says he took ninth place in men’s snowboardcross in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The “Fun Facts” section says he’s also an accomplished skateboarder, surfer, motocross rider, BMX biker, snowmobiler and “professional madman with MTV’s Nitro Circus.”

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