YouTuber deliberately crashed plane in California mountains for views and to cash in on a sponsorship deal, authorities say

A screenshot from Trevor Jacob's YouTube video showing him parachuting out of his plane.
Trevor Jacobs leaps out of his plane after the engine supposedly cuts out in a video posted to YouTube.
Trevor Jacob/YouTube

In December 2021 Trevor Jacob uploaded a video to YouTube titled “I Crashed My Airplane,” a 12-minute video depicting the moment the aircraft’s propellor seemingly stops working and Jacob, the pilot, is forced to parachute out.

This week the 29-year-old pleaded guilty to crashing the plane in Santa Barbara County in order to gain online views, with prosecutors alleging he later returned to the scene to destroy the evidence.

Following the crash, a federal investigation ensued, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California confirmed today that the man from Lompoc had pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation.

Jacob, whose video has now been viewed 3 million times, could face up to 20 years in federal prison.

The video shows the plane from several angles, with cameras mounted to the craft’s wing, tail and dashboard.

Jacob is shown flying the plane alone, smiling and remarking he was “on his way to Mammoth” on a “beautiful, beautiful day.”

Less than a minute into the video—and 35 minutes into the flight—the front propellor of the airplane is shown to slow and stop before Jacob climbs out and parachutes away.

As he manages to grab his selfie stick before making the leap, the video then features a few minutes of footage of Jacob falling through the air, with his aircraft seen tumbling away below.

The footage then shows Jacob returning to the wreckage of his plane, as he remarks, “I have no idea where I am” and thanks God and the universe for “watching over him.”

Jacob, who has 138,000 subscribers, then shows his walk through the mountains where he hypothesizes he could be being watched by bears or mountain lions.

The rest of the video—which has 32,000 likes and more than 12,000 comments—shows Jacob stumbling through the mountains before being found by some people in a passing vehicle.

“I had an engine out in the mountains,” he tells them.

The plea agreement signed by Jacob reveals that he had secured sponsorship from a company that sold various products, including a wallet, which he would promote in a video.

Jacob also admits in the agreement that he lied to federal investigators having falsely indicated the aircraft lost power, and that he had been forced to parachute out of the plane because he couldn’t identify any safe landing options.

Returning to the scene of the crime

Two days after the crash Jacob told the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about the incident—at which point he was informed the wreckage must be preserved.

According to the plea agreement Jacob then lied to investigators both from the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), saying he didn’t know the coordinates of the wreckage.

On December 10 Jacob and his friend took a helicopter back to the wreckage site and airlifted it back to Santa Barbara County, where it was later stowed in a hangar at Lompoc City Airport.

Over the coming days, Jacob admitted in the agreement that he cut up and destroyed the plane parts by leaving the pieces in bins around the airport.

Jacob’s pilot license was revoked by the FAA in April 2022.

Commenters on the video were rightly skeptical of the footage—with many questioning why in a high-stakes situation a pilot would grab their selfie stick to capture their fall.

Jacob’s lawyer did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

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