Tasmania Police Inspector Darren Hopkins’ injuries from a light plane crash could have been a lot worse were it not for his survival skills built up over decades with the police force.
Northern Commander Brett Smith said Inspector Hopkins’ survival mode would likely have kicked in as he landed the burning aircraft and made his way to a water trough before emergency services arrived on the scene at Hagley on Sunday.
“He’s always been someone who wanted to learn, wanted to gain new skills and knowledge, and I have no doubt that personality of his has helped him survive this,” he said.
“No doubt. I’ve known the guy 32 years, I’ve worked closely with him over the past four years, and I know him as well as anyone I do on the job. I know how he’s wired and how he thinks, and he’s pretty cool, calm and collected in times of crisis.
“With this situation – a plane on fire in the air – I have no doubt that a lot of his past experiences and his approach to life generally would have helped him get him to where he is at the moment.”
Inspector Hopkins has previously recovered from a gunshot wound sustained in 1996 during a drug squad operation, and Commander Smith said it was just one example of the officer’s resilience during trying times.
“It’s not the first time he’s found himself in a difficult situation such as this,” he said.
“We’re just thankful that he’s got the opportunity to make a full recovery, but we’re being pragmatic and we recognise that it’s likely to be later rather than sooner given the nature of his injuries.
“But we’re thankful that the situation has turned out as good as what it could have, when it could have been far worse.”
Break O’Day mayor Mick Tucker has worked closely with Inspector Hopkins over his time with the council.
He said Inspector Hopkins had always balanced compassion with respect, and had helped make the communities he worked with what they are today.
“He’s one of the good ones,” he said.
“Approachable, supportive, always there to give advice or help, and keep us informed of everything that’s happening and we can’t ask for more than that.
“We’ve had many, many conversations and cups of coffee over the years. He’s just a genuine decent bloke, you can poke a bit of fun at him and he’ll poke a bit back – a good old-fashioned copper with a great sense of humour that can be serious when he needs to be.”
Mhairi Revie, SES North regional manager, said the SES was thinking of Inspector Hopkins’ family and wished him a speedy recovery.
She has worked with Inspector Hopkins during countless search and rescue missions, where he played a pivotal role in reuniting Tasmanians with their loved ones.
She said the Tasmanian community owed a lot to Inspector Hopkins and the work that he has done through his longtime work as a search coordinator.
“He’s somebody that I can certainly trust to have the interest of my volunteers at heart and that’s a key thing that I really appreciate,” she said.
“People are often colleagues in the first instance that become good friends, and he’s one of those special people.
“It takes a lot of integrity in that role to go far, and he is somebody who is able to think on his feet and make sure he puts other people first as well as the safety of those conducting the searching.”
Inspector Hopkins is in a critical, but stable condition at the Royal Hobart Hospital.