OPA-LOCKA, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a co-pilot and continued searching for a pilot on Saturday, hours after a 1955 Convair C-131B cargo plane traveling from the Bahamas to Opa-locka crashed about 13 miles east of Bay Harbor Islands.
The survivor, 28-year-old Rolland Silva, was in luck on Friday. The U.S. Coast Guard already had a helicopter up in the air. The Coast Guard pilot, who was conducting training exercises, rushed to the area and found Silva waving his arms from a small, canary-yellow inflatable lifeboat.
Silva, the flight's first officer, was injured, but not badly enough that he wasn't able to climb into the hanging basket the crew used to hoist him out of the water and into the helicopter. He didn't know where the pilot was.
"We have another chopper out there searching," Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma said less than four hours after the crash. "We are looking for another survivor."
The Coast Guard helicopter flew Silva to the station in Opa-locka, where Miami-Dade Fire Rescue picked him up and flew him to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center. Relatives said he was conscious, and although doctors were treating his injuries, he was in stable condition.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Conquest Air Cargo flight 504 departed from the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau, Bahamas, and it was headed to Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport when it hit the sea about 12:15 p.m.
A representative of Miami Lakes-based Conquest Air Cargo released a statement saying the pilot declared an emergency and attempted to water land the Convair C-131B cargo plane during a return from a cargo delivery. The company provides daily flights between Opa-locka and Lynden Pindling International Airport in the Bahamas.
The plane's FAA registration history shows Conquest Air Inc. registered the Convair C-131B Samaritan with two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines on April 26, 2018, after buying it from Kestrel Inc., of West Des Moines, Iowa.
FlightAware records show the plane with registration N145GT departed about 43 minutes late at 11:13 a.m., and was set to land at 12:24 p.m. According to the AirNav Radar Box records, the cargo plane started to lose altitude at about 4,600 feet and some 10 minutes later -- at 1,200 feet -- it ditched into the ocean.
It appeared the aircraft broke up after it hit the water during an attempted water landing. Investigators determined the aircraft was damaged beyond repair. One of the two occupants vanished.