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Retired Firefighter Aids in Haiti Relief

Retired Firefighter Aids in Haiti Relief

Sailors deliver an injured American citizen to USS Carl Vinson’s (CVN 70) Health Services department for medical care. USS Carl Vinson and Carrier Air Wing 17 are conducting humanitarian and disaster relief operations in Haiti in response to the recent

The Eagle Tribune via YellowBrix

January 29, 2010

SALEM – As Dennis Covey watched news coverage of the earthquake in Haiti, the 51-year-old retired Salem firefighter wanted to help in any way he could.

“I just said, ’We’ve got to go,’” he said yesterday.

Covey, a lieutenant with the Fire Department who now lives in Palm Bay, Fla., said he could not make a big financial contribution. But he could afford a plane ticket to the Dominican Republic and a rental car once he got there.

“We just got a map and left,” he said.

Covey spent the next week in Haiti, using his paramedic skills to help injured people and his firefighting skills to search for survivors. His son, Daniel, 24, and a friend, John Dillegan, a firefighter in East Chicago, Ind., went along. The trio returned to Florida on Wednesday.

“We were kind of playing it by ear at first,” Covey said.

Pics From Haiti: Urban Search and Rescue Teams in Action

They brought as many supplies as they could to the country, but did not know where to stay. When they arrived in Port-au-Prince, they found a United Nations base where peacekeepers gave them identification cards, a place to stay, and supplies.

“We had to do a lot of improvising,” Covey said. “We didn’t have the supplies we needed, so we kind of made things up as we went along, especially with trying to keep clean.”

Covey said they visited the outskirts of Port-au-Prince and other areas nearby where there were no relief efforts at all.

“These are people that had nothing before and now they have less,” he said. “They have less than nothing right now.”

With the guidance of U.N. doctors, Covey cared for people crushed by falling debris.

“I was performing minor surgical procedures on people because we couldn’t get them to a hospital,” he said.

Covey, a Gulf War veteran, said the devastation in Haiti was unlike anything he ever witnessed.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “It was dead bodies everywhere.”

Covey said it was especially difficult to see how many children were in need. When they arrived at a camp with food, water and medicine, the food and water would be gone in minutes.