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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Rescue mission bringing Haitian orphans to Pittsburgh

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

By Sadie Gurman and Jon Schmitz

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A team of medical personnel accompanied by Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire was in the air and headed to Pittsburgh early today with 53 children from an orphanage in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The mercy mission, which included medical staffers from several Pittsburgh area hospitals, was beset with paperwork problems involving the orphans that forced the rescue team to return on a different plane.

But after several hours on the ground at the airport in Port-au-Prince, the children boarded a C-130 military transport plane and took off around 11 o'clock last night, bound for Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. After a refueling stop, the plane was to fly to Pittsburgh.

The mercy mission, funded by an unknown sponsor, left about 11 a.m. yesterday from Pittsburgh International Airport aboard a Republic Airways chartered jetliner that carried Mr. Rendell, Mr. Altmire and the medical teams.

But after landing in Port-au-Prince early yesterday evening, the jetliner, which was only allowed to remain on the ground for two hours, was forced to depart before officials could resolve some documentation issues, said Gary Tuma, a spokesman for the governor.

Mr. Tuma said officials scrambled to secure another plane to bring the orphans back to Pittsburgh.

The rescue mission came in response to messages last week from sisters Jamie and Ali McMutrie of Ben Avon, who said last Tuesday's devastating earthquake endangered the health of 130 children in their care at the BRESMA orphanage in Port-au-Prince.

Mr. Tuma did not know whether any of the children had serious injuries from the earthquake, which destroyed a large part of their orphanage.

Earlier yesterday, officials said the plan was to have as many as 61 children, ages 1 to 4, waiting at the Port-au-Prince airport and immediately board the plane, which was under orders to leave within two hours. Once in Pittsburgh, they were to be taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC for evaluation, Mr. Tuma said.

UPMC officials early this morning put the number of children on board the plane at 53.

Also aboard the charter flight were medical personnel from UPMC, West Penn Allegheny Health System, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and Excela Health.

To read more, visit the Post-Gazette website.



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