ABACO ISLANDS, Bahamas – A Florida pilot and his wife located dozens of missing villagers stranded in the Abacos after a tip from a News4Jax reporter.
Justin Johnson and his wife Angela, a nurse, run Timberview Helicopters in Destin. The couple decided to fly over to the Abacos to help with search and rescue missions as well as dropping relief supplies to Hurricane Dorian victims in secluded parts of the Bahamas.
News4Jax reporter Vic Micolucci was flying with the crew Tuesday afternoon when he spotted a large pile of debris in the distance. The helicopter was already heading back for another mission and the pilot said he had flown over the area several times before and didn’t notice any sign of people or movement. Justin Johnson said he believed the debris was a landfill.
However, on Johnson’s next flight, he “felt the urge to fly a little closer and even sit down on the ground to check out Vic’s suspicions,” according to his wife, Angela. “Somewhere near 30-40 people began climbing out of overturned vehicles and rubble that they were taking shelter in to run to him for help.”
She said teaming up with the group Medic Corps, they were able to bring loads of food, water, tents, tarps and other supplies to this “ever so grateful and elated group of people.”
The volunteers offered to airlift the villagers to Nassau, but they decided to stay.
Over the weekend, the Johnsons and Lawson Bates, of Medic Corps, found 3 young girls stranded on the other side of a washed-out bridge. Their parents were on the opposite side. The helicopter team brought the sisters into their helicopter and flew them to their grandparent's house, where there were supplies and a generator.
Reports said more than 2,500 people are still missing in the Bahamas. The death toll remains at 50, but is expected to rise significantly.