Texas-size help made its way from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on Tuesday morning to employees of a Dallas-based company in Puerto Rico more 2,100 miles away.
Brian Randow, CEO of the air cargo company Ameriflight, boarded the plane bound for San Juan filled with supplies for the 37 employees living on the island.
“You can hear their desperation when you talk to employees how they’re running low on water and running low on food,” said Randow.
Over the last 2 1/2 weeks, the company has been collecting donations and handwritten cards from its more than 500 employees to send to Puerto Rico.
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“They’re a valued part of our company and we just need to take care of our people,” said Randow.
Prior to Hurricane Maria’s Category 5 rain and winds leaving at least 34 people dead, the company would send about 50 flights a week there. The company offered to charter flights and evacuate all employees and their families before the storm made landfall, but only two pilots took the offer.
“The others from the island had been through storms before and felt they could ride it out,” said Randow.
With the help of 10 other pilots the company moved 13 aircraft off the island to Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. Randow says employees in San Juan have access very few basic services, but the rest of the island is in dire need of help.
“Our base on Rincon, which is on the opposite side of the island, is really isolated. They say it’s no better today than it was the day after the storm,” said Randow. “It’s taking time for everything to get from the larger city San Juan to other areas of the island.”
Since the island has become accessible again the company has operated three relief flights — two on September 23 and one on September 26 — carrying 6,784 pounds of food, water, toiletries, chainsaws, generators, extension cords and gas cans.
“On a call yesterday they stressed that they really could use batteries” said Randow. “They’re running out of AAA and D batteries, which they’re using for light at night.”
The company has also set up a GoFundMe account that’s raised more than $15,000 since launching on September 25. When he arrives in San Juan, Randow plans to give that money directly to his employees.
“It’s a cash-based society right now, because ATM machines aren’t up and running right now because there’s no electricity,” said Randow. “We talked to one of our people who said he could go to Burger King and get dinner but it’s cash only. They can’t connect to the internet to swipe a credit card.”
Randow said he is focused on doing what he can for his affected employees.
“We have a unique situation where we own airplanes and cargo airplanes and we can do this,” said Randow. “So we felt the need to step up and take care of our people.”
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