Archive for January, 2011

Moss Bluff resident reflects on experience

Lost luggage kept group out of the quake’s epicenter

On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, Vicki Barkate Brentin reflected on the time she spent in the country, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest.

The Moss Bluff native arrived with a missions group about an hour before the quake hit. On Thursday, Brentin described to the Calcasieu-Cameron Retired Teachers Association the series of extraordinary events that followed.

“When we arrived, we waited around for 45 minutes, trying to find a group member’s lost luggage,” Brentin said. “If we had gone straight to our assignment, we would have been at the epicenter of the quake when it hit.”

The 7.0-magnitude temblor killed an estimated 250,000 people.

‘Trying to organize’

The group spent most of their first day making their way to a hospital in the Diquini community of Port au Prince.

“One of the images that sticks with me is when we arrived at the hospital. There were thousands of injured people on the grounds,” Brentin said. “Many were dead.”

She was sent out with a group to look for supplies. She said they ended up breaking into a small pharmacy, where they found boxes of ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment and bandages.

Day 2 was full of ups and downs, she said.

“When we went out, I expected to find aid groups everywhere,” Brentin said. “That’s when I learned that the United Nations building had collapsed, killing half of their staff, and every group was still trying to organize.”

While on another search, they came across a radio station that was still operating and were able to send an e-mail home to Houston.

The group then encountered a clinic set up by Doctors Without Borders, whose physicians were treating about 200 burn victims, Brentin said.

“With all they were dealing with, they were able to give us 30 boxes of some much-needed supplies,” she said.

‘It takes time’

Brentin said she prayed hard during her five days in Haiti.

“I don’t do blood and guts. I never have,” she said. “But I knew we were there for a reason.”

The group’s departure coincided with the rise of civil unrest — spurred by waning supply stocks — and resembled the running of an obstacle course, she said.

The group had to force their way into the airport — with a little help from some Australian journalists — because it was sealed off by guards. They then dashed out to the tarmac, only to be sent back inside by Prime Minster Jean-Max Bellerive to pay departure fees and have their passports stamped.

Reflecting on the ordeal, Brentin said the Haitian people are an example of the power of the human spirit.

“They are very faith-driven,” she said. “Even with all the despair, they were asking us if we were OK.”

Brentin went on another mission trip in September and said the country didn’t look much different. She said this was compounded by Haiti’s lack of infrastructure before the earthquake.

“Everything has to be built from the ground up,” she said. “And to do it right, it takes time.”

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January 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

Longtime Westlake leader dies

Westlake residents are mourning the passing of Jim “Hawk” Herford, 63.

A native and longtime resident of Westlake, he served as its chief of police, was a member of the state pardon board and recently served on the Lake Charles Port Board. He also worked with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Current parish Chief Deputy Gary “Stitch” Guillory worked under Herford for 15 years before succeeding him as chief of police and called him a close friend.

“He was for Westlake through and through. He cared about the town,” Guillory said.

Former Westlake Mayor Dudley Dixon, who worked with Herford, said the former chief worked hard for the city of Westlake.

“He was elected by the people to serve them, and that’s exactly what he did,” Dixon said.

Both Guillory and Dixon said one of Herford’s favorite hobbies was cooking.

“I think most of his hobbies were taking care of people,” Dixon said.

Dixon said Herford treated his police department employees well.

“He was always one of the guys, but when he needed to use his authority, he did,” Dixon said.

Guillory said he didn’t know of any health problems Herford had.

“He was a pretty healthy guy. He had a hip replacement, but he exercised every day and took pretty good care of himself,” Guillory said.

Herford reportedly collapsed Sunday in a hotel lobby in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as he and his wife were ending a vacation trip. His cause of death is unknown and funeral services are pending.

January 11, 2011 at 2:25 am

School bus driver arrested after taking pills

A Barbe Elementary school bus driver was arrested early Wednesday for driving while intoxicated, according to authorities.

At around 6:30 a.m., Calcasieu deputies responded to a call about an erratic school bus driver on Elliott Road in south Lake Charles.

Another bus driver reportedly forced Brandi N. Hood, 32, of Sulphur to pull into the parking lot of St. John’s Elementary School.

There were no students on the bus.

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Cpl. Robert Shortridge found that Hood was too impaired to perform a field sobriety test.

After Hood blew a .000 on a breath-alcohol test, deputies took her to a local hospital to draw blood for a toxicology report. Results reportedly take about a month.

Hood reportedly told deputies that she had taken Soma and Loracet pills earlier that morning.

The Calcasieu Parish School Board will use information from the arrest report in its internal investigation, said Charlene Chaisson, the school system’s public information officer.

“Officials look at things such as if there was a dereliction of duty or inappropriate actions during work hours,” Chaisson said.

She could not comment specifically on the Hood investigation because she said school officials are not allowed to publicly discuss personnel issues.

January 6, 2011 at 2:26 am