Monday, August 29, 2011


Saturday, August 27

I look up at the cloudless sky as the warm Caribbean sun steadily climbs higher. The soft breeze and gentle call of the birds give no indication of what today will bring.

It’s 9:00 a.m. and I’m readying the 206, HH FLY, for a charter flight to Pignon. Feeling my cell phone vibrate at my side, I reach down to check the caller ID and notice it’s Lefils, our airstrip agent in LaGonave.

After the customary ‘Bonjou. Koman ou ye?’ Lefils tells me about a serious motorcycle accident that just happened. “Is it possible for you to do a medivac flight and transport two patients to the hospital in Port au Prince?” He asks, switching over to English.

Since my Pignon passengers are already waiting, I tell him that I’ll head over as soon as I’ve dropped them off. "Great! We’ll be waiting for you.” He says, before hanging up.

Since the 206 only has room for one stretcher, I slide it in the side of the plane and then load the passengers and cargo for Pignon. After a 25 minute flight, I land on the grassy Pignon strip and unload the passengers and cargo.
Now off to Lagonave.

The uneventful thirty minute flight from Pignon to Lagonave gives no hint of the danger I’ll soon be in. Even the sometimes stormy Caribbean ocean, parallel to the sandy La Gonave runway, is idyllic and peaceful today.

Down on the ground, the peaceful scene changes to something more chaotic as a massive crowd waits to watch the medical evacuation. Once the airplane engine is turned off, a pickup truck slowly advances closer. Hopping out of the airplane I quickly spot the two seriously injured, unconscious patients in the back. With the help of several bystanders we load the first patient onto the spine board and carefully place him in the aircraft. Since we have only one spine board I secure the second patient using two cargo straps and three seat belts. His head is swollen and there is a deep gash in his left temple.

Once both patients are secure, a third, smaller, middle aged man asks if he can travel with me to accompany the patients. I direct him to the co-pilot seat and then proceed to help him with his seat belt.

With both patients unconscious in the rear of the aircraft I now focus my attention completely on takeoff and flight.

Not even five minutes later disaster strikes. The second patient wakes up and thrashes around in the rear of the aircraft. Within minutes he has managed to undo the cargo straps and seat belts that were keeping him safe.

“Talk to him,” I instruct the man beside me in Creole and he tries his best to calm the patient. Disoriented and confused due to his head injury the patient begins to scream and yell and then frantically tries to open the cargo door at the back of the airplane. Looking back I watch in horror as he manages to unlock the door and cracks it open.

“PA FE SA!” I yell, and momentarily stunned he stops. Thankfully the outside wind force is strong enough to push the door back closed, but it remains unlocked.

“You need to get in the back and restrain the passenger,” I tell the man beside me, and he nervously fumbles with his seat belt.

Checking my instruments and making sure I’m on course I miss the enraged expression of the patient in the back. Suddenly a seat belt is wrapped around my neck from behind and twisted viciously. I let out a yell and then instinctively twist and punch. Feeling the seat belt loosen around my throat, I turn to see the man gingerly cupping his jaw.

“Get in the back now,” I tell the frightened man beside me. “Sit on him if you have too, but you need to restrain him before he gets worse and causes our airplane to crash!”

The fear of crashing is enough to propel the timid man into action and I watch as he climbs between the seats. Although much smaller than the patient, his fear of death empowers him to wrestle down the man.

Praying for calm, I remain focused on flying, checking back occasionally on the two men behind me, two men engaged in a life and death struggle.

Spotting the Port au Prince runway in front of me, I breathe a sigh of relief and thanks. Whispering a prayer of thanks to God, I focus on executing a safe landing.

Back at the MAF hanger, the Red Cross is waiting with their ambulance and quickly sedate the man.

Looking up at the azure heavens I marvel at how peaceful they still appear. Feeling a welcoming breeze brush my face I’m reminded that, regardless of the circumstances I may find myself in, my Father in Heaven is everywhere present.


  1. That is SO scary! Thank God everything turned out ok!

    Henry and Jenny

  2. Good punch master charles would have been proud. Brandon