A YouTuber whose single-engine airplane crashed in a California national forest admitted that he downed the aircraft to boost views for a sponsorship deal, authorities said Thursday.
Trevor Jacob, 29, made the admission in a plea agreement filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
Jacob pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars, the U.S. attorney’s office for Central California said in a news release.
Jacob posted the video behind the charge — “I Crashed My Airplane” — on Dec. 23, 2021. As of Thursday, the nearly 13-minute clip had 2.9 million views.
The video shows Jacob, described in the plea agreement as an experienced pilot and skydiver, taking off from Lompoc City Airport in a Taylorcraft BL-65 nearly a month before he published the video online.
Roughly one minute into the video, as Jacob flies over Los Padres National Forest, a camera mounted on the aircraft shows the propeller appear to stop working. Cameras capture Jacob jumping from the plane and opening a parachute as the aircraft crashes into the mountains.
In a statement to The New York Times after the crash, Jacob said: “I’ll happily say I did not purposely crash my plane for views on YouTube.”
According to the agreement, Jacob had intended to use the video for a sponsorship deal with an unnamed company that made wallets.
“Defendant intended to make money by promoting the wallet in the video that would depict, among other things, defendant parachuting from the airplane, and the airplane descending and crashing,” the document says.
In an email to an investigator from the Federal Aviation Administration about a month after the crash, Jacob lied about not knowing where the aircraft’s wreckage was, according to the agreement. Weeks before, he’d used a helicopter company based in Paso Robles, roughly 120 miles north of Los Padres, to lift the wreckage from the mountains and put it in a trailer, the agreement says.
Jacob admitted taking the wreckage to the airplane hangar he used in Lompoc, cutting it up and throwing it away, the agreement says.
Jacob also falsely told the agency that he’d experienced a full loss of power 35 minutes after takeoff and that he’d parachuted from the plane because he couldn’t identify a safe landing option, the agreement says.
Jacob didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday. His lawyer, Keri Axel, declined to comment.