We received a heartbreaking e-mail late last night from one of our mission partners in Haiti, who lost three people when a truck with 14 staff members returning from a rural village health clinic careened off the road and fell 50-feet into a river.
Please keep the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF), its staff, and the poor they serve in the rural mountains surrounding Jeremie in your prayers as they deal with this difficult loss.
Below is an e-mail from Bette Gebrian, HHF’ director of public health, explaining the accident:
A truck full of staff were returning from a rural village health clinic late yesterday afternoon — some of our nurses, nursing students, an American volunteer and her translator, a health agent and his sister, who cooked the food for the day, and her children. The truck veered off the road into the deepest part of the Grand Anse River right outside of town.
It is only now that the United Nations and Haitian Police are trying to lift the truck out of the depths. My husband, Edwin, and Dr. Bourdeau, our medical director, and hundreds of villagers are standing vigil.
Passengers in the vehicle believe that the driver, who has worked for HHF for many years, had a physical attack and was non-responsive when warned that the vehicle was approaching the edge. The truck veered off the road and flipped into the river. The driver died. The health agent, Alexis Michel, got out as the windows broke and started to pull the others out — a true hero. His 5-year-old nephew died in the mucky, strong current and has not yet been found. One of our long-term nurses also died. The other nurses got out with broken bones. All are still in shock.
The Cuban doctors joined the Haitian doctors at HHF to do x-rays and assess the injuries. It was a fabulous scene of collaboration.
Dr. Bourdeau had the saddest task of bringing the dead to the morgue. At one point, he messaged back to HHF for white sheets.
Jean Richard, the driver, was a devout Christian and was excitedly building a house for his wife and baby. His wife is inconsolable. Micheline, the nurse, had been a village leader that became a health agent and then was trained by HHF as a nurse. She left behind children and a husband.
We are all in shock.
HHF is closed for now. In 22 years, we have never lost people who have dedicated their lives to the service of the poor. The whole town is in mourning and news has reached Port-au-Prince. So sad, so sad. We need everyone’s prayers right now.