YouTuber accused of deliberately crashing plane for views pleads guilty, faces 20 years in prison

Trevor Jacob, 29, faces up to 20 years in prison after purposely destroying wreckage of small plane that he crashed in 2021

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A YouTuber accused of deliberately crashing his plane to get a boost in views has agreed to plead guilty to obstructing a federal investigation, the US Department of Justice announced.

Trevor Jacob, 29, faces up to 20 years in federal prison after he purposely destroyed the wreckage of the small single-engine plane that he crashed in California’s Los Padres national forest in 2021, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office.

Jacob, who parachuted out of the plane before it crashed, uploaded a video to YouTube documenting the incident. He initially told investigators that his plane lost power and that he did not know where the wreck was. But his story drew doubts from aviation experts and federal authorities. They later found that Jacob made no attempt to call air traffic control, restart his engine or search for a safe place to land.

The YouTuber, who described himself as an experienced pilot and skydiver, never intended to complete his solo flight from Lompoc airport in southern California to Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevada mountains, he admitted in his plea agreement.

Prior to taking off on 24 November 2021, Jacob mounted several video cameras on different parts of the plane and equipped himself with a parachute, video camera and selfie stick, officials said. About 35 minutes into the flight, he jumped from the plane and began filming the aircraft as it plunged into the dry brush below. Once he touched ground, he hiked to the crash site and retrieved the footage from the crash.

Two days later, Jacob informed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the plane crash but told investigators with the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration that he did not know where the wreckage was.

On 10 December 2021, however, Jacob and a friend flew to the crash site and towed the crashed plane to Santa Barbara county, where Jacob put it in a hangar. Over several days, he destroyed sections of the plane and placed the parts in trash cans around the airport and elsewhere, which authorities say he admitted to doing in order to mislead investigators.

He uploaded a video titled I Crashed My Plane to YouTube on 23 December 2021. The following April, after investigators uncovered Jacob’s lies and obstructions, the FAA revoked his pilot license.

Jacob’s video of the crash has been viewed nearly 3m times.