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#3525: Pleasure boaters thrust into nightmare of Haitians' pain (fwd)
From: Rosann Clements <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Published Monday, May 8, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Pleasure boaters thrust into nightmare of Haitians' pain
BY MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE
Cox News Service
They dropped anchor near one of many deserted tropical isles in the Bahamas,
ready to relax. Someone broke out a bottle of wine, and the three couples
settled in to share stories of their adventures.
What they saw next would become their most shocking tale of all.
First, they noticed the gray hull of a sailboat. Then, a dozen people
staggered over the crest of barren Flamingo Cay, waving yellow flags and
empty water containers. The three couples watched as the beach filled with
The people they would comfort and nourish were refugees fleeing Haiti who
had been marooned without food or water after a desperate 11-day sea
``We were relaxing and talking like old friends do,'' Carol Ogden, 50, of
Port St. Lucie, Fla., said by telephone from George Town, Bahamas. ``When we
saw people coming over the hill, we knew something was wrong.''
She and her husband, Jack; their friends, Peter and Louise Berry of Atlanta
and another couple piled into dinghies and came ashore. There they found the
first of two bodies awash in the surf and a crowd of desperate men, women
and children. Berry, a retired physician, quickly saw that the Haitians
couldn't live more than 24 hours without water.
He began sorting through the weak and battered group of 80 to 100 refugees,
attempting to care for them amid the chaos. None of the rescuers spoke
Haitian Creole, but a refugee named Etienne spoke a little English. The
boat's captain and crew spoke Spanish.
``Where is the village?'' they asked. ``Which way to the States?''
As more Haitians arrived from the other side of the rocky hill, the American
couples returned to their boats to begin generating fresh water.
Many of the refugees could barely swallow, Berry said. He had to hold one
pregnant woman's head while he poured water into her mouth.
In all, the Ogdens and Berrys distributed more than 200 gallons of water
while ministering to the Haitians on April 26 and 27, until Coast Guard
helicopters arrived with food and minimal medical supplies.
Those shivering on Flamingo Cay were among a growing wave of refugees headed
for Florida's east coast, smuggled through the Bahamas.
That night, two brothers lifted their shirts to display burns and bullet
wounds and told retired real estate agent Jack Ogden, 56, about being shot
and tortured in Haiti, their parents killed. Others spoke of the 12 fellow
passengers who died during the trip.
A young mother handed her lethargic 3-month-old son, clad in a pink dress,
to Louise Berry, 59, and ran off. Berry took the baby to her boat, cleaned
him up and returned him, with a jug of water, to his mother.
As darkness fell, the Ogdens and the Berrys searched with flashlights for
Haitians too ill to move. When Louise Berry discovered two men armed with a
machete and a knife, she demanded that they hand over the weapons. They did.
Peter Berry, 60, began evaluating the dehydrated refugees as the Ogdens
helped convert salt to fresh water using pumps aboard their boat, the Motu;
the Berrys' boat, Tango; and the other couple's boat, the Magic. They also
brought what food they had -- bread, trail mix, tuna, beans and rice. Many
Haitians could stomach only small portions, and distribution provoked
Between trips ferrying food and water to the beach, the Ogdens tried to
contact the Coast Guard on shortwave radio.
When the group finally reached the Coast Guard by satellite phone about 7:30
p.m., they were told it would be hours before a helicopter arrived from
Nassau 400 miles away.
They lit fires and flares on the beach, and waited.
During their night on the island, Berry said many refugees became sick while
huddling in the rain, and two Haitians attempted to board their sailboats.
One stricken teenager swam out to sea and drowned. Carol Ogden was still
trying to radio for help when she saw him vanish into the clear water.
Then she heard moaning from a woman standing on the beach as the Berrys
pulled the body back to shore, a woman she knew instantly was the teen's
``That mournful wailing into the night, that is what I'll take away with
me,'' said Carol Ogden, a former advertising executive.
The first Coast Guard helicopter could carry only 11 refugees, and Berry had
to choose them. Then he had to decide which four among the sickest remaining
on the island would get IVs.
``These people were unconscious. We had to pick the sickest. A lot of it was
pretty random,'' he said.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Sylvia Olvera said the doctor's ability to treat
refugees and remain at the scene aided rescue efforts.
``He notified us, he was there, and he took over,'' she said. ``He helped
these people as best he could.''