Team Haggy did not wait long to get back over to the Abaco’s. Our team was at it again early Monday morning at the Stuart Jet Center, loading two planes and preparing for a return trip. We planned on arriving into North Eleuthera to clear customs then on to Treasure Cay. The hope was that by avoiding Nassau we would avoid major delays.
Customs in North Eleuthera couldn’t have been easier!
We landed on the ground at North Eleuthera airport with no other planes in front of us. We were able to clear customs and get back in the air in less than 20 minutes.
We landed at North Eleuthera Airport, which is on the North end of the long Island of Eleuthera.
Haggy with the Customs officer.
On to Treasure Cay!
Next we departed Eleuthera for Treasure Cay. We had a beautiful morning with great visibility. The short flight North provided some clear views of the Abacos. It was surreal to look down on the absolute beauty of the Islands but see the complete destruction of the storm.
Hope Town on Elbow Cay
Bakers Bay Marina and Resort
All vegetation was completely bare.
We were back on the ground in Treasure Cay by 0940. This was even earlier than we had planned for. Our goals remained the same: set up our communication satellite, deliver supplies, evacuate locals off the Island. On the ground we didn’t see much improvement since we departed less than 48 hours before. Locals were still gathered on the tarmac waiting for evacuation. A few more tarps and tents were set up, but still no real structures or plans on the ground.
One of the mission’s goals was to set up a communications Satcom on the island. We brought over a KVH mini VSAT that is capable of providing a contestant internet and phone line to connect with the outside world. The difficult part is finding a secure place to set this up, that has a constant power supply and is under supervision. In order to accomplish this we needed to find a local on the ground that would be able to utilize the VSAT and keep it in a secure place. Errol was able to hook us up with a long time friend Fire Chief Albury. This proved to be the connection we needed to make things happen. Chief Albury’s department lost everything in the storm and have zero fire fighting equipment to fight fires moving forward.
Chief Albury putting out a plea to the Fire Fighters across America.
This is what is left of the local First Station
Here the Chief is describing his first hand account of the storm.
Rob Abbott and myself were tasked with the set up of the VSAT equipment. Chief Albury was sheltering in the home of a friend who’s home remained completely intact. The decision was made to set up the equipment at this location. We first had to make the 7 mile journey from the Airport to the home. This is when the full destruction of the storm came to full realization.
We finally arrived the Home the Chief was staying at. After witnessing the complete destruction of the town, here we were looking at a completely intact home. It looked as if the storm never happened. Everything else around it was decimated. This home had power, water, and all the normal conveniences. It really shows that a well constructed structure can survive one of the worst storms ever. Well done to the building contractor!!
It was now time for us to set up the Mini VSAT.
Shawn and Tim are standing by after unloading in Treasure Cay. These guys have down an amazing job getting all people and supplies safely in and out. Well done gentlemen!
Here Dimiter is trying to get in touch with the rest of the team via Satellite phone. This is not always easy when standing on an active runway.
It was cool to see a Marines MV-22 Osprey landing in Treasure Cay. We were able to get both planes out before the US military shut down the airport for two hours. It seems like today the breaks were finally going our way!
We are now half way through our day. We have managed to set up communications and deliver our supplies. We now turned our focus to trying to get evacuees out of the Islands. Next stop Freeport!
Once on the ground in Freeport we we able to find two families that needed to get back to the USA. We had to make sure they had all of the proper paperwork to legally enter the US. This took time on the ground getting all info passed along for the clearance to depart. We were able to feed the families and keep them under shade until we were finally able to depart for Stuart, Florida.
We finally got off of the ground in Freeport with 11 evacuees. Next Stop is Stuart Florida to clear in Customs.
Cockpit Selfie after a long day
Flying over the Grand Bahama Bank on the Edge of the Gulf Stream
Now back on the ground in Florida, how were US Customs going to receive us with 11 Bahamians?
We finally completed the days mission and cleared everybody in. US Customs was very accommodating a did an amazing job! Nothing like fresh McDonald’s cheeseburgers as a USA welcome.
Our team for Mission 2.
We were able to accomplish all of the days goals. Delays were minimal and the team performed outstanding in every way. Even though we are a small part of the overall relief, there is no doubt we are making a huge contribution. We have a communications center set up with the Fire Chief in Treasure Cay. We now have direct instant communication with them in order to prioritize and organize specific supplies needed on the ground. This is just the beginning of our efforts!!!