By Christopher Tobutt
It was a big heroes’ welcome home for the crew of “X-ray One,” the Royal Cayman Islands Police Helicopter. The team, who had been helping move people and vital supplies around hurricane-devastated Abaco Island in the Bahamas, were warmly greeted by H.E the Governor, Martyn Roper, Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin, and Hon. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, as soon as the helicopter touched down at Owen Roberts International Airport.
Smiles broke onto the crew’s tired faces as hands were shaken, as the last of the crew stepped down onto the concrete. They had seen much sadness, and been pushed to their limits, but they had made a big difference and everybody knew it.
During the six-day deployment the team flew 42 missions from Nassau to the affected Islands, carried 125 passengers including 8 young children and 20 adult evacuees. They shipped desperately needed kit including tarpaulins and communications equipment to many inaccessible locations.
With airfields in Abaco and Grand Bahama now becoming more operational and providing more options for relief flights using fixed wing aircraft, the decision was taken to bring the team home.
Captain Nigel Pitt said: “We flew approximately six or seven flights each day and in the region of six to ten hours of flying each day. We were moving people – either N.G.Os, military, government officials - North into Abaco or Grand Bahama.
We found devastation in Abaco. It looks horrendous. The worst area affected is Marsh Harbour, which is the size of George Town to West Bay. It’s a massive area. and when I say ‘devastated’ I mean ‘flat’” he said.
“Everybody was so welcoming, from the moment we spoke to the first man in the aviation tower on our way in: ‘We really appreciate you coming.’ Everybody everywhere has been so welcoming.”
Painting a picture of part of just one day, he said: “One day we were going up to do a reconnaissance, and as we stopped to refuel at Marsh Harbour Airfield, and someone came across to us and said, “Can you take this medicine up to Fox Town. We land at Fox Town in a little baseball court, and we deliver the medicine. While we’re delivering the medicine, there is a group of people who were desperate to get out; there was a lady with an injured leg. We were loaded at the time and we said, “Two hours, we will be back, and we will come and get you, so we came back in two hours, and we picked up this family.
H.E the Governor said: “The Bahamas has gone through a really terrible time, but I think to send a helicopter and help them out is really special and they’ve done an incredible job over a long week.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said: “It’s an incredibly proud moment for Cayman to be able to welcome back the crew who have done such an incredible humanitarian job in the Bahamas. You have to have a lot of pride – a little place as small as we are, we are able to help our brothers and sisters elsewhere. We know, better than most, what it’s like after a hurricane.”