Words of encouragement are coming in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic from a South Florida man who is lucky to be alive.
Rolland Silva survived a cargo plane crash in the Atlantic last year and has been on a 15 month journey to fly again. He believes his experience can inspire others trying to make it through this global pandemic.
There wasn’t much left of the 28-year-old's aircraft once it hit the water. Images showed the wing floating by itself. Over the air traffic system, calls could be heard saying a plane had gone down 20 miles off the shoreline in the Atlantic.
Silva was copiloting the cargo propeller plane that was heading to Opa Locka from the Bahamas when the plane ditched into the water.
“When we impacted the water...after I got myself out of my seat and realized I needed to get out of the aircraft because we were sinking,” Silva said. “The water was up to my waist and rising pretty quickly.“
Engine trouble caused Silva and the Captain of the aircraft, 68-year-old Robert Hopkins, to end up in the Atlantic. Silva tried to get Hopkins out, but couldn’t.
“Something like that should never happen, but things happen. It’s one of those scenarios where you can only do the best you can do," Silva said. "You will always carry some burden with you, but I know at the end of the day - even though I think about it - it's not something that haunts me because I did the very best I could do that day."
The Coast Guard was out training in the area and he was able to grab the planes life raft.
On live television, Silva could be seen inside the life raft.
“I grabbed onto the lift raft and just swam for my life,” Silva said. “That life raft was a miracle from God. That was the reason I survived, because I sustained some pretty bad injuries that day and I don’t think a life vest would have really helped in my scenario. “
Silva broke bones in his back, and had a broken leg, but still made it into the basket the Coast Guard lowered.
“I just mustered my strength and flopped myself into the basket and the rest is history,” Silva said with a chuckle.
Silva hopes to earn a living flying again. The FAA medical team gave him the green light, but due to the pandemic, finding any airline work is next to impossible.
“As far as the industry itself, I haven’t been able to find another job,” he said.
When it comes to what he’s learned from his take your breath away moment and for those impacted by the pandemic, he said, “Some challenges are more than others, and sometimes people are stronger than other people. But, at the end of the day, we have to keep on moving on. Focus on your life and being a better person and I think together if all do this we can get through this."