A 60 year old superyacht captain was killed in a plane crash in Florida. Capt. Don Hopkin died on Saturday when the single-engine airplane he was flying crashed into the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred yards from a crowded beach near Nettles Island. Capt. Hopkin was the captain of motor yacht Scott Free, a 157-foot Christensen. Superyacht Scott Free is frequently berthed at Sunrise Harbour Marina in Ft. Lauderdale. Nettles Island is off the southeast Florida coast.
M/Y Scott Free’s Chef Sherry Ellis commented: “We’re all devastated; we’re in shock…He was the nicest, most polite and diplomatic captain I’ve ever met.”
Capt. Hopkin’s passenger, James B. Doom, 39, of North Palm Beach, also died in the accident. The cause of the crash was unknown.
Reportedly captain Hopkin, also a pilot, was helping raise money to send young people to a summer fly-in. The paln is a Hopkin’s Yak-52, a single-engine Soviet-era plane.
The sheriff’s office began receiving reports of the crash about 11:45 a.m. A Palm Beach County sheriff’s helicopter returning from a funeral in Indian River County was flying nearby at the time of the crash and was on-scene within seconds.
The crash occurred in front of a swimming pool and crowded beach across State Road A1A from Nettles Island, a community just north of the Martin/St. Lucie County line.
Sheriff’s divers worked the crash site, about 300 yards from shore and in water 10 to 15 feet deep. They removed the bodies of the two men, found strapped inside the plane’s cockpit.
The aircraft wreck was marked with a buoy. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were notified and will determine the cause of the crash.
Tony Delorenzo of Stuart, president of Chapter 692 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, said Hopkin had landed briefly at his chapter’s Young Eagles Rally Saturday at Witham Field. The chapter gave free airplane rides to 65 young people at the event. None of the rides was in Hopkin’s plane, he said.
A ride in Hopkin’s Yak-52, at some later date, was being raffled as a prize, Delorenzo said. Proceeds were to send two or three local youngsters to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s 2010 AirVenture meet in Oshkosh, Wis., in July.
Delorenzo said Hopkin left Witham Field with Doom, as a photographer, in the second seat.
Brinda Lee, an eyewitness on the beach, described the airplane as having a camouflaged fuselage and bright-colour on its wings.
“It was flying so low, I remember thinking it was a danger to people on the beach,” Lee said.
But Lee and several other eyewitnesses agreed the plane was not smoking and did not appear to be in any mechanical distress.
Greg Theiling, an attendant at the Nettles Island beach-side pool, said the plane was flying north and had almost completed a 360-degree turn directly in front of the crowded beach.
The plane in Saturday’s crash is a Soviet-designed aircraft for training pilots. The design first flew in 1976 and it is still being produced in Romania — largely for sale to Western sport flying enthusiasts.
For more info go to http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/may/15/plane-down-ocean-st-lucie-county/