Need continues for Haitian relief

On the ramp at Cap Haitien: Rick Garcia (left); Wilbert Merzillus; John Loute; and two unidentified local Haitian airport workers in front of Garcia's Seneca V, which was loaded with medical and other relief supplies.

There is still a need for pilots to help in Haiti, reports Rick Garcia, president of Gulf Coast Avionics at Lakeland-Linder Regional Airport in Florida, who made a relief flight to the earthquake-stricken island March 6.

Accompany Garcia were Greg Newlun, who served as co-pilot, and John Loute, a Haitian acquaintance of Garcia’s who had lost three family members in the earthquake.

In preparing for the flight, Garcia worked through an Orlando-based organization called Clean The World, which was able to help obtain necessary clearances and provide necessary contacts. “The Orlando organization introduced me to Dr. Ted Kaplan, who had already made several trips to Haiti. Dr. Kaplan gave me the names of two gentlemen, Father Geordani and Wilbur Merzillus, who were operating hospitals in Cap Haitien, a more rural location in particular need of some immediate help. Dr. Kaplan also donated 20 sets of crutches to be delivered to these hospitals. My local Rotary Club in Lakeland donated the rest of the medical supplies that we delivered.”

“We intentionally planned our flight for Cap Haitien because the affected areas in Haiti outside of Port-Au-Prince were in such dramatic need of supplies,” he continued. “After our arrival in Cap Haitien in IFR conditions, we unloaded our supplies with the help of Wilbur Merzillus and local airport workers. The supplies were immediately delivered to the local hospitals. After an overnight stay, our return route took us through Jacmel, Haiti, so our friend John Loute could visit the surviving members of his family and deliver some personal items to them. From Jacmel, we flew back through Exuma for fuel and then on back to Lakeland.”

When asked about conditions in Haiti, Garcia replied, “Haiti and Haitians need a lot of help now and for the foreseeable future. As time goes on, we need to not forget the level of destruction that occurred there and the amount of help that will be required to get back to any sense of normal living. I am grateful that we were able to do what we did, but so much more is needed.”

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