Pilot crashes plane into church parking lot in Polk County

Posted at 1:32 PM, Jun 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-12 19:13:24-04

A pilot suffered severely injuries after his plane crashed Sunday in Bartow. The aircraft narrowly missed a church, where 300 people were inside gathered for service.

The pilot, 61-year-old Robert Silva, apparently intentionally turned his aircraft when he knew a crash was imminent. The plane smashed into a power pole, then a parked vehicle before coming to rest against a tree.

Silva managed to avoid slamming into Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church. People inside the church heard a loud boom during service. Someone told them a plane crashed and members started running outside to see what happened.

Two members, who are nurses, saw someone was inside the plane and bleeding. Even with downed power lines, the women knew they needed to help and stepped up into the plane.

They worked to stop the bleeding from the big gash on Silva's head and tried to keep him alert and conscious.

Looking back, they're extremely grateful he dipped away from the church and they could be there to help save his life.

"As I sat over there and I put pressure on his head, I was praying for him and calming him down, and I'm just thankful that he did," said Queen Morris, one of the nurses who helped. "God is with him. And God was with us as well. That was just huge. It was so close."

Silva was taken to the hospital with serious injuries where he underwent surgery and is currently in stable condition. He told the nurses who came to his rescue that he is an experienced pilot from Gainesville and something went wrong with the plane causing the crash.  

It is not clear is Silva was taking off or about to land. The area where the plane crashed is just two miles from the Bartow Airport. Federal investigators will be at the scene to piece everything together.