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HELL UNLEASHED


The Caribbean tectonic plate creeps eastwards about 0.79 inches a year in relation to the North American plate. Separating these two opposing siblings are numerous fault zones, including one with a peaceful sounding name: the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden. For 250 years it was indeed peacefully locked. But it was continually building up pressure year after year … after year. Then on Tuesday, 12 Jan. 2010 at 4:53 p.m., a subterranean key was suddenly inserted about 16 miles WSW of the capital city of Port-au-Prince … and all hell was unleashed on Haiti.


The death toll was estimated around 200,000, although we may never know exactly how many lost their life. Morgues were overwhelmed with tens of thousands of corpses as mass graves were opened to receive the dead. For survivors fortunate to be alive, life was far from fortunate. An estimated 3 million people were aff ected. The Haitian government estimated that 250,000 residences and commercial buildings either collapsed or were severely damaged. No place was spared because of its stature or importance: the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, Port-au-Prince Cathedral, all were either severely damaged or destroyed. Even the United Nations Stabilization Mission betrayed its name and collapsed, killing many.


The entire infrastructure, urgently needed to


provide relief, lay in ruins in the


quake’s wake. Transportation facilities, communications, and all hospitals in Port- au-Prince’s metropolitan area ceased to function. For weeks survivors spent their nights outdoors, fearful to go inside lest aftershocks drop upon them what was left of their homes.


ANGELS TO THE RESCUE


While it seemed to some that God had forsaken Haiti, in truth He had many angels fl ying to the rescue. Two were named Patrick Dolan and Rymann Winter,


32 October 2015


willing to do what they could to alleviate the suff ering they were seeing on their screens in the U.S. Their wings were more conventional than the white-feathered imaginations of artists; they were fi xed- wings fi lled with supplies. Once in Haiti, they piloted doctors, nurses, and relief workers to where they were most needed.


Another curiosity about these two angels is that although they were certainly on the same side of goodness and mercy, they did not know each other before their missions and never met while in Haiti. Still, they returned to their separate homes with a shared determination that something more must be done.


Both had seen that Haiti-based medical air transport was critically needed. Winter, the president of a fl ight school in Los Angeles (the City of Angels) attempted to start a nonprofi t foundation, yet kept running into roadblocks. Dolan, the president of a metropolitan New York City cable news operation, picked up Winter’s internet tracks when he typed “air ambulance Haiti” into a search engine. The two angels were about to meet.


FROM NAPKIN TO NONPROFIT


Dolan and Winter got together in 2012 and quickly realized that their ideas were not only on the same page; they were on the same napkin—the document they used to draw up their initial vision for what would become Ayiti Air Anbilans. Of course, much more complex and detailed documents and endeavors followed, such as feasibility studies and fi lings that obtained the nonprofi t organization’s tax- exempt 501(c)(3) status.


Qualifi ed Haitians were recruited for the organization’s board. (It’s a requirement that 40 percent be Haitians.) Initial funding was raised in the U.S. Then vacant land was cleared and buildings and helipads constructed in Port-au-Prince for the air ambulance’s base headquarters.


One person instrumental in shepherding


the startup was Ralph McDaniel, a veteran of the HEMS industry who managed and developed helicopter base operations over a 40-year career. He was at his Georgia home when he received a fateful phone call from Dolan, a call that inspired him to help. “After I sold my helicopter operations and retired, I was sitting around watching Oprah too much,” he half-jokes in a recent interview from Haiti. “I had never been to Haiti and had no idea what to expect; my only international travel had been on a cruise ship.”


Lack of extensive international travel experience did not deter McDaniel from committing to temporarily go south. “We started out with a six-month agreement to help; that was going to be it—and here we are two years later, ” he says, now as the executive director of Ayiti Air Anbilans. “It’s just such a brilliant project in such a highly needed location that it’s hard to walk away from. I want to do this as opposed to feeling that I need to do this.”


That sentiment is shared by Associate Executive Director Ron Reid. “I’m an old retired Army pilot, who then went to Air Methods. I left Air Methods to take this job. It’s the most honorable thing that one could do; it’s very rewarding. It’s a challenging job, but gosh I haven’t been this challenged and felt this good about what I do in quite a few years.”


Although Reid no longer works for Air Methods, the U.S. company still works for him and everyone at Ayiti Air Anbilans. That’s because Air Methods is the vendor that provides air medical transport for the nonprofi t. They brought the fi rst Bell 407 down to Haiti in 2014. Such professional transport does not come cheap. “Some people see us and say, ‘Oh, they’re not- for-profi t.’ Yes, but we still have to pay for everything. Our vendors don’t see it as not-for-profi t; when the bill comes, we have to pay it,” says McDaniel.


FLIGHT OPS & OBSTACLES Air Methods operates under FAA Part


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