‘We couldn’t wait for others to respond’

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The helicopter crews helped evacuate more than 20 people on the first day.

The helicopter crews helped evacuate more than 20 people on the first day.

When Hurricane Dorian made landfall on the Bahamas last Monday and spent 24 hours wreaking havoc on the Abacos, Grand Bahamas and other islands in the area, Regal Marine CEO Duane Kuck knew he had to get over there. His wife, Cindy, has family there. Kuck knew he couldn’t wait for things to settle down. He and other volunteers paid to hire two helicopters to fly over and rescue people who were stranded on the most devastated islands.

“We did reconnaissance on the first day over the Abacos,” Kuck told Trade Only Today. “On Wednesday, we did helicopter operations coming out of Nassau and going to Elbow Key, Man o War, Green Turtle Key, Treasure Key and Marsh Harbour.”

Working out of Nassau, which was unaffected by the storm, Kuck estimated that his group evacuated more than 20 people on the first day. “That effort has continued through yesterday,” he said.

Duane’s wife, Cindy, has an even tighter connection with the islands. Her father was born and raised on Man o War Cay, and she still has many family members in the Abacos. Most of the family have been accounted for, but one died due to a medical condition during the storm. Some are part of the local boating industry.

“Cindy’s first cousin Troy Cornea is a businessman in Marsh Harbour,” says Duane. “He owns-- and lost--Harbour View Marina and Wally’s restaurant, among other businesses. All of his business property has been destroyed, but he’s over there today helping with relief efforts.”

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support that so many communities are giving,” Cindy told Trade Only Today. “I can’t wait for people there to get a glimpse of what’s happening on this side.”

From his helicopter flights last week, Duane Kuck said “the devastation and catastrophic destruction is what you see with a Cat 5 storm. It takes down everything in its path. When it went through the Abacos, the storm was one of the strongest to ever come out of the Atlantic.”

Dorian caused extensive damage to the local marine industry.

Dorian caused extensive damage to the local marine industry.

The Kucks have been coordinating continued relief efforts to have supplies dropped off at the Sanford airport, which are then taken by air to North Eleuthera. From there, the supplies are loaded onto boats and taken to the most stricken areas.

The organization Water Mission is on site in the hardest-hit areas and the Kucks are working with that group to get reverse-osmosis watermakers to those areas.

“What we’ve been doing is grass roots, so we can do it fast,” said Duane. “It’s all privately funded. We pay fuel for planes and the boats. We can’t wait for others to respond. We’re very thankful for the bigger organizations helping out.”

Today, the group is sending money to Spanish Key to pay for fuel for the boats ferrying supplies. Kuck said that in the short term, the best thing people from the U.S. can do is donate to First Orlando Foundation to help pay for the relief efforts.

“Some of the islands are very resourceful and they’ll start very quickly to sustain themselves,” says Duane. “They will rebuild for sure. The beauty of the area remains.”

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