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Local earthquake relief jets to Haiti

MANATEE — A private Gulfstream jet filled with medical supplies, two doctors, a nurse and a medical assistant flew out of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Tuesday, bound for Haiti.

The aircraft, which can haul 4,000 pounds of cargo, lifted off about 12:53 p.m. on the one-hour, 45-minute flight.

The team plans to work for the next week from the home of relatives of Dr. Frederic Monosiet, a Haitian-born physician who now lives in Manatee-Sarasota.

The home escaped the devastation that brought down much of Port-au-Prince and killed tens of thousands of Haitians.

Before boarding the flight with Cuban-born Dr. Abdiel Lorente, a resident of Lakewood Ranch, Monosiet shook hands with students from Out-of-Door Academy who raised more than $5,000 toward the relief effort and helped load the plane.

“Thank you very much for your help,” said the smiling Monosiet.

Doctors volunteering their time, Lorente said, is very much in the tradition of physician service.

The local effort has received a “groundswell” of support, said Ken Sanborn, who contributed the aircraft and helped seek donations of medical supplies.

“It’s just grown and grown,” said Sanborn, founder of Gyrocam Systems, which he sold last year to Lockheed-Martin. “It’s important for the kids to understand you can make a difference.”

So many supplies were collected that a second flight will be required to ferry them to Haiti.

Ben Vessey, pilot of the jet, said he wasn’t sure what to expect when landing at Port-au-Prince. Even in normal times, the airport can present challenges to aircraft crews.

“We only have an hour on the ground. We have to hit our time slot within 10 minutes,” Vessey said.

Nurse Jenny Koselak of Terra Ceia said she has helped in other relief efforts, including recovery from hurricanes Andrew and Katrina.

“I’ve been trying to get to Haiti since the earthquake. I can’t wait to get started,” said Koselak, who wore a T-shirt with the inscription “Serve: Reach the world by serving one.”

David Mahler, ODA’s head master, said news of the mercy mission has brought more offers of help from those who want to contribute supplies or help on the ground in Haiti.

He said ODA hopes to take part in a sustained effort to aid the recovery.

Glen Cole, who works for Sanborn, said many in the community have offered to help. Home Depot on University Parkway, for example, contributed $500 worth of supplies, including flashlights, blankets and gloves.

“This is neat; I’m blown away,” Cole said.

Dr, Austin Hill, managing partner of Urology Partners and chief of staff at Manatee Memorial Hospital, contributed a huge amount of antibiotics, dressing supplies, topical and oral antibiotics and more, Sanborn said.

Reached at his practice Tuesday afternoon, Hill said he “called in some chips” to help gather the supplies. He credited Chris Malloy, director of nurses at Manatee Memorial, with helping in the collection.

Malloy, a veteran of the recovery effort at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center, made sure workers would have some protection against airborne pollutants from all the demolished buildings.

She arrange to have inhalers, masks and gloves included in the shipment.

“I want to encourage everyone to do something,” Hill said.

Major Dan Keefe of U.S. Customs and Border Protection seemed impressed by the local effort.

“I think it’s amazing that the kids stepped up and collected the supplies, that the doctors provided their time, and that the owner donated his plane,” Keefe said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.

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