A Kelowna, B.C. man has gone to great lengths in a desperate attempt to temporarily bring his friends to Canada– after their home in the Bahamas was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian.
Mike Carter said his extended family moved to the Bahamas in 2000 and he helped them open a bar in Freeport, the main city on Grand Bahama, an island off of the Florida coast.
That’s where he met Dexter Ferguson, a local Bahamian whom he employed at the bar.
Ferguson and his wife, Bridgenna, along with their 10-year-old son, Dexter Junior, were left homeless after the category 5 storm left a trail of destruction across the archipelago almost one week ago.
There is no power or running water. Food from aid groups is slowly trickling in.
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Carter, safe in the Okanagan, frantically texted his friends back in the Bahamas in the wake of the hurricane. Ferguson was the first to respond, saying his family was safe. But it was bad.
“I got ahold of him the next day and he said yes they’re safe but they were homeless and they had nothing, they were right in the middle of where the eyewall it was really, really bad.”
Ferguson thought it was a long shot, but he asked Carter if he could help evacuate his family from the island and bring them to the safety of Canada.
Carter jumped into action, booking the family ferry tickets so they could escape the storm-ravaged city of Freeport for the capital of Nassau, and catch a plane to Canada.
“What I didn’t anticipate is 50,000 other people were going to get on this boat at the same time,” he told Global News on Monday.
“It turned into a mob scene and the ferry terminal was overrun by people and it turned out to be, almost a riot, from what I understand.”
The ferry service suspended operations and Carter knew he had to get creative. He said he began cold calling random Bahamian citizens, pleading for help to rescue his friends.
WATCH: Rescue workers pull bodies from wreckage in Hurricane Dorian-ravaged Bahamas
He said after seven hours of exhaustive efforts, he got in touch with a woman by the name of Rosemary who was willing to assist. She knew a boat captain who lost his boat, but managed to find a boat owner willing to lend his vessel for the rescue mission.
She fronted the gas money and Captain Mario Moxy agreed to operate the vessel.
“I got Dexter and his family to hike through Grand Bahama to find a dock where nobody was around, and then they pinged their GPS co-ordinates to me,” he said.
“I sent those to Rosemary, and then Rosemary pinged those GPS co-ordinates to Mario, and they found them on Grand Bahama at a secluded dock.”
The Ferguson family was transported to Nassau where they boarded a plane on route to Toronto. Carter said the family arrived in Canada late Monday afternoon and cleared customs.
WATCH: Hurricane Dorian: Relief efforts ramp up amid fear of ‘staggering’ death toll
“Just pure elation, this has been such an emotional roller coaster, there’s been times when I have been crying my eyes out, and now all of a sudden they’ve just cleared the final hurdle, I’m about to cry,” he said.
When asked why he took on the lofty endeavor, Carter said he recently lost his father and was beginning to fall into depression. He said he thought of the spirit and resiliency of the Bahamian people, and knew he needed to do something.
“It struck a chord with me, and to see my family mobilize and their motivation to help everybody, I thought, I had to do this,” he said.
“We can’t just sit around and enjoy an Okanagan summer with running water and power and all of the things that we have here in Canada, this is what it means to be Canadian, and we help people out.”
Carter said the evacuees are scheduled to land at Kelowna Regional Airport (YLW) at 11:45 p.m. Monday.
The family plans to stay in Canada for 90 days and does not plan to seek refugee status, according to Carter.
Online crowdfunding efforts are underway to support the Fergusons once they arrive in the Okanagan.
Carter hopes to help at least five more Bahamian families seek refuge in Canada.
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