Coast Guard suspends search for pilot who crashed off Bay Harbor Islands

Co-pilot was rescued shortly after plane went down

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

MIAMI - The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Saturday for a cargo pilot whose plane crashed Friday off the coast of Bay Harbor Islands.

The 1955 Convair C-131B cargo plane was traveling from the Bahamas to Opa-locka when it crashed about 13 miles east of Bay Harbor Islands just after noon Friday.

The Coast Guard said the search for the pilot, 68-year-old Capt. Robert Hopkins of Coconut Creek, encompassed 364 nautical miles and lasted about 21 hours.

Capt. Robert Hopkins is seen in a family photo with his fiancee Michele Gure.

The crew of a Coast Guard plane, already in the air on a training mission, spotted the plane's co-pilot, 28-year-old Rolland Silva, on Friday floating on a life raft. 

A Coast Guard helicopter pulled Silva from the water and he was eventually taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center. Relatives said he was conscious and doctors were treating his injuries. He was listed in stable condition.

Hopkins' fiancee, Michele Gure, said he texted with Hopkins regularly and knew late Friday afternoon that something wasn't right when he stopped responding.

“Everybody loved him, everybody can count on him, I anything happened to you or your family he was the one that would be called, he’s loved by so many which is so obvious,” Gure said. “I love him so much. I don’t want to lose him. He wasn’t supposed to leave.”

A representative of Miami Lakes-based Conquest Air Cargo released a statement saying the pilot declared an emergency and attempted to a water landing during during a return from a cargo delivery. The company provides daily flights between Opa-locka and Lynden Pindling International Airport in the Bahamas.

"Our thoughts remain with the family of Capt. Robert Hopkins at this difficult time. This is a tremendous loss for our company. Capt. Hopkins' selfless leadership was and will always remain an example for us all," the company said Saturday.

It appeared the aircraft broke up after it hit the water. Investigators determined the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

Gure said she is trying to come to terms with Hopkins' death.

“It just sickens me right now. It’s just surreal. It’s crazy,” she said.

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