A YouTuber equipped with a parachute, camera and selfie stick took off on a solo flight and purposely crashed his plane in a California national forest — for online views and in the hopes of making money, according to federal prosecutors.
Afterward, Trevor Daniel Jacob, 30, of Lompoc, lied in a National Transportation Safety Board report and said the plane lost power before telling a Federal Aviation Administration inspector the aircraft’s “engine had quit,” prosecutors said.
Weeks later, the experienced pilot and former Olympic snowboarder uploaded a YouTube video titled “I Crashed My Airplane” that captured the plane slamming to the ground, according to prosecutors.
Now Jacob is going to prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced in a Dec. 4 news release.
On Nov. 24, 2021, Jacob flew out of the Lompoc City Airport with video cameras strapped to his Taylorcraft BL-65 airplane for a flight purportedly to Mammoth Lakes, court documents say.
However, about 35 minutes into the flight, Jacob ejected himself from the plane as the aircraft flew over the Los Padres National Forest and recorded his descent down in a parachute, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, Jacob agreed to promote a company’s wallet in his plane crash video as part of a sponsorship deal.
After the crash, Jacob hiked to the wreckage and collected footage from the plane’s video cameras — which he strapped to the aircraft — that captured it crashing into a “dry brush area,” according to prosecutors.
He then lied to federal investigators and destroyed the plane’s wreckage despite instructions to preserve it, prosecutors said.
Two days after the crash, Jacob reported the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board, which began investigating and told him to preserve the site, according to prosecutors. Then the FAA also started an investigation.
Though Jacob told the National Transportation Safety Board he’d let their investigators know where the plane crashed and hand over his footage, he never did, prosecutors said.
As the weeks went on, Jacob is accused of lying to investigators and saying he didn’t know where the crash site was.
However, on Dec. 10, 2021, he and a friend flew to the crash site on a helicopter and airlifted the wreckage to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, prosecutors said.
Jacob then drove the wreckage to a Lompoc City Airport hangar, where he cut up the plane’s fragments and dumped the pieces in the trash at the airport and other locations “to obstruct federal authorities from investigating,” according to prosecutors.
By Dec. 23, 2021, Jacob published his YouTube video and “intended to make money” through it, prosecutors said.
“It appears that (Jacob) exercised exceptionally poor judgment in committing this offense,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “(Jacob) most likely committed this offense to generate social media and news coverage for himself and to obtain financial gain. Nevertheless, this type of ‘daredevil’ conduct cannot be tolerated.”
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter sentenced Jacob to six months in prison on Dec. 4 on a charge of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, according to the attorney’s office.
He pleaded guilty to the charge on June 30, prosecutors said.
“This experience has been so humbling,” Jacob said in a statement provided to McClatchy News by his defense attorney. “I’ve learned more about myself than in my entire prior life combined.”
“I am grateful that Judge Walter considered many different aspects of my unique situation. I believe he made the right decision in imposing this punishment,” Jacob added. “I am excited to continue my positive growth as a person through my six month term in prison.”
Ahead of his sentencing, his attorney, Keri Curtis Axel, asked the court to consider a probationary sentence with community service for Jacob, court filings show.
“This was a massive learning experience,” Jacob said, adding that he looks forward to “being a contributing member of society, and a mentor for youth.”
Lompoc is about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.