A YouTuber who wrecked his plane in California admitted to orchestrating the crash so he could get more views, said the Justice Department.
Trevor Jacob, 29, who’s also a former Olympic snowboarder, filmed himself jumping out of his single-propeller plane above the Los Padres National Forest in November 2021. He then uploaded a video titled “I Crashed My Plane” to his YouTube channel, which has around 137,000 subscribers.
Now, Jacob has pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, and could face up to 20 years in federal prison, the Justice Department wrote in a Thursday statement. Jacob admitted to the authorities that he wanted to make money from the video of the crash, and had reached a sponsorship deal to promote a wallet on his channel, the statement said.
He also confessed that he falsified an accident report he filed after the crash and lied to investigators, per the Justice Department. Jacob is expected to appear in court in “the coming weeks,” the Justice Department added. How Jacob orchestrated the crash, then tried to cover it up The YouTuber’s 12-minute video, which has 2.97 million views, shows him taking off from Lompoc City Airport and heading toward Mammoth Lakes.
As he flies over a mountain range, Jacob holds up a plastic bag containing the ashes of his friend, base jumper Johnny Strange, who died in 2015. The video then shows the propeller of Jacob’s plane slowing to a stop. The influencer pilot swears several times, saying he has “an engine out,” before opening the plane door. He jumps out with a parachute, filming his descent with a selfie stick. Cameras installed on the unmanned plane then show the aircraft flying into the mountainside. After landing, Jacob tells the camera he doesn’t have cell service, and proceeds to hike for several hours. “I am exhausted. I’m so thirsty. I’m scared, I’m in trouble, I’m cut all over the place,” says Jacob halfway through his trek.
“The only option I have is crawling through these bushes like I have been for the last five hours.” In the video, he’s also seen finding the wreckage of his plane. The Justice Department noted that Jacob went back to the plane so he could retrieve footage of the crash. Weeks after the crash, Jacob told investigators he would help them find the wreckage but then said he didn’t know its location, per the department.
In reality, he and a friend flew by helicopter to the wreckage site and brought the plane to a hangar in Lompoc City Airport, the authorities said. Jacob then dismantled the plane and dumped its parts in trash bins, per the DOJ. Jacob’s video initially drew skepticism from other aviation YouTubers, who noticed that he already unlocked the plane door before the engine purportedly failed. They also thought it was suspicious that Jacob flew with a skydiving parachute, which small aircraft pilots don’t typically wear, and didn’t look for a safe place to land despite satellite photos showing several ideal spots nearby.
The Federal Aviation Administration revoked Jacob’s pilot certificate in April 2022 amid the investigation into his crash. Jacob’s confession contradicts his January statement to The New York Times. “I’ll happily say I did not purposely crash my plane for views on YouTube,” he told the outlet, saying he has a habit of “filming everything I do.” His lawyer, Keri Axel, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment sent outside regular business hours.