Trevor Daniel Jacob, a 29-year-old YouTuber and former Sochi Olympic snowboarder who deliberately crashed his airplane into the Sierra mountains, has pleaded guilty to federal charges. The announcement came from federal prosecutors, revealing that Jacob could face up to 20 years in prison.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California stated that Jacob, residing in Lompoc, California, pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, as per a press release.
On November 24, 2021, Jacob took off from Lompoc City Airport in California, claiming that he was flying to Mammoth Lakes. Prior to the flight, Jacob equipped the plane with cameras positioned from multiple angles. Approximately 35 minutes after takeoff, he ejected from the plane above the Los Padres National Forest.
The video, which has currently amassed over 2.9 million views, remains accessible on YouTube. In the footage, Jacob can be seen repeatedly swearing, feigning engine failure, and portraying the need to abandon the aircraft. He jumps out of the plane wearing a parachute, capturing his entire descent on camera.
After safely landing via parachute, Jacob embarked on a hike toward the crash site of the plane. The cameras mounted on the aircraft recorded the entire crash sequence, which was later included in his subsequent YouTube video.
The video also features Jacob hiking and expressing his gratitude for being alive, as well as documenting his thirst being quenched from a nearby stream using a handy selfie stick. As night fell, Jacob noticed car headlights in the distance, ultimately being “rescued” by nearby farmers.
Jacob reported the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on November 26, 2021, prompting the government agency to launch an investigation. However, this marked the beginning of Jacob’s elaborate plan to garner internet attention through a staged plane crash, and it soon began to unravel.
According to the plea agreement, in the weeks following the crash, Jacob deceived investigators by claiming he had no knowledge of the wreckage’s location. Yet, on December 10, 2021, he and a friend flew by helicopter to the crash site. There, Jacob used straps to secure the wreckage, which was then lifted by the helicopter and transported to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County. From there, it was loaded onto a trailer attached to Jacob’s pickup truck.
Jacob subsequently drove the plane wreckage to Lompoc City Airport, unloading it in a hangar. Over the course of a few days, he dismantled the plane and disposed of its parts in various trash bins around the airport. His intention behind these actions was to impede federal investigators from determining the cause of the crash. Allegedly, Jacob aimed to monetize the video by promoting a wallet.
Jacob eventually confessed to lying to federal investigators by submitting an aircraft accident incident report falsely indicating that the plane experienced a total loss of power around 35 minutes after takeoff. He also misled an FAA aviation safety inspector by claiming that the airplane’s engine had failed, leading him to parachute out of the aircraft without identifying any safe landing options, as outlined by federal prosecutors.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revoked Jacob’s pilot’s license in 2022. The date for sentencing in this case has yet to be determined.