Robert E. Hurst was an Aviation Machinist’s Mate Second Class with the U.S. Navy. His plane went down during a reconnaissance mission near Greenland on Jan. 12, 1962. It was carrying 12 crew members.
After his initial remains were identified and buried in 1966, a second discovery led to his final remains’ return to his family in Talladega this year.
Robert Hurst’s brother Ronnie Hurst, 63, is a minister at Talladega Church of Christ. He is relieved that the investigation is over and his brother can rest in peace. Today, he keeps the cremated remains that were recently found in his home.
The incident happened when Robert Hurst was onboard a Navy P2V-5 Neptune aircraft. When it failed to return to Keflavik Naval Air Station in Iceland, it was presumed to be lost at sea and a search mission ensued.
For the next four years, Robert Hurst was missing and presumed dead. Eventually those fears were confirmed.
The wreckage and remains of the passengers’ bodies were found by a British geological expedition team on Aug. 8, 1966. They were discovered on Kronborg Glacier in Greenland, over four years after the plane originally crashed. Only 10 of the 12 crew members were identified. Robert Hurst was among them.
“These days I think they notify you in person. Then they told us with telegrams,” Ronnie Hurst said about the family’s notification of his brother’s discovery in 1966.
Ronnie Hurst said receiving the news of his brother’s death was a shock. The family thought that when he enlisted at the time he did he would eventually get to return home.
“It was unexpected because we were not in a declared war,” Robert Hurst said.
In 1995, another civilian geological team discovered additional remains at the site that once held the downed naval aircraft. Their remains were recovered by the Navy in August 2004.
Ronnie Hurst provided a blood sample to aid in DNA identification.
Once the remains were positively identified as those of Robert Hurst, Navy officers met with the family to deliver the news.
Ronnie Hurst said this last discovery at the crash site led to the identification of remains of all 12 sailors who died in the crash. The remains found in the earlier expeditions were identified for most of them, but not all.
“Now all 12 families can have closure,” he said.
The final remains of Robert Hurst were given to his family on May 12 of this year. The Hursts decided to have them cremated.
Robert Hurst said the family was glad to have this additional information. It provided closure needed after he was asked for a blood sample after having already buried his brother years ago.
While the remains discovered in 1966 were buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, these final remains rest in an urn in Robbie Hurst’s home.
“I’m honored,” he said of the family’s decision to bestow the ashes to him.
Robbie Hurst said the family is considering scattering Robert Hurst’s ashes over his grave at a later date but hasn’t decided yet.
Robert Hurst was born on July 27, 1939, in Sycamore. He was the sixth of 13 children. He moved with his family to Talladega as a child.
When he was in grades 11 and 12, he worked on a type of co-op program that allowed him to finish his school classes during the day then work as an electrician with Diversified Occupations at night. His trainer at the job was Marcus Keith.
He graduated from Talladega High School in 1957 and enlisted in the Navy just a short time later on Sept. 12 at age 18.
“We all thought a lot of him for serving our country,” Ronnie Hurst said.
In fact, it wasn’t just his country that he was serving. Robert Hurst aided his family by regularly sending money home while his father, Hubert Hurst, was injured and unable to work.
Robert Hurst was 22 years old when he died. He had married Phyllis Hurst only six months previously.
Robert Hurst is survived by 10 siblings, including Ronnie. These include Harold Hurst of Alexandria, Jimmy Burst of Harvest, Ernest Hurst of Salt Lake City, Utah, Leslie Hurst of Talladega, Gary Hurst of Charleston, S.C., Shelba Simpson of Archdale, N.C., Hilda Parker of Eufaula, Sue Madsen of Oxford and Annie Black of Oxford.