A former Olympian is facing up to 20 years in federal prison for intentionally crashing his small airplane in an effort to gain YouTube views and a sponsorship deal.
In court this week, Trevor Jacob, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation. Prosecutors said Trevor, an experienced pilot and skydiver, deliberately crashed his plane about 35 minutes after taking off on November 24, 2021. The content creator recorded the flight, which shows the propeller stopping. Then, while wearing a parachute and armed with a selfie stick, Trevor jumped out of the plane. After feeling the pilot's seat, the unmanned plane crashed into a mountain.
Prosecutors said Trevor "did not intend to reach his destination," which was allegedly set to be Mammoth Lakes in California.
After safely landing in the forest in California's Santa Barbara County, Trevor hiked to the aircraft crash site and retrieved cameras that had been mounted to the 1940 Taylorcraft plane. Two days later, Trevor alerted authorities to the crash. Short after that, he uploaded a video to his YouTube channel titled, "I Crashed My Airplane."
Based on the circumstances of the crash, investigators and aviation experts were suspicious from the beginning.
"I'll happily say I did not purposely crash my plane for views on YouTube. Given my background I could see why people would think that," he told the New York Times in January 2022. "I've been filming everything I do since I was 5 years old… People can believe whatever they choose."
Over a year later, the daredevil did an about face and said he had agreed to promote a company's wallet in the video.
In his plea agreement, Trevor admitted to lying to investigators about the wreckage's location. A press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for Central California said Trevor and a pal actually visited the site about two weeks after the crash.
"Jacob and a friend flew by helicopter to the wreckage site," the press release said. "There, Jacob used straps to secure the wreckage, which the helicopter lifted and carried to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, where it was loaded onto a trailer attached to Jacob's pickup truck."
Afterward, he tried to destroy and discard the wreckage in trash bins.
His pilot's license has since been revoked.
Prior to become a YouTuber, Trevor represented the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics, where he finished ninth in the men's snowboard cross. He also competed in three X Games competitions.