Harrison County

Coast pilot wanted to help hurricane victims, so he filled his plane with precious cargo

Justin Taylor of Pass Christian, Jason Granger and Tim Darnell of Mission Reagan of Dallas help load the plane of Ernest Burdette of Pass Christian before relief flight to the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Justin Taylor of Pass Christian, Jason Granger and Tim Darnell of Mission Reagan of Dallas help load the plane of Ernest Burdette of Pass Christian before relief flight to the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Courtesy Ernest Burdette

After living through Hurricane Katrina, a Pass Christian man gladly accepted a unique opportunity to help the victims of recent hurricanes.

Ernest Burdette said he and his son-in-law, Justin Taylor, who also lives in Pass Christian, signed on to fly 800 pounds of medical supplies from Texas to the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

“I’m a pilot and I have my own plane,” Ernest Burdette said. “I’ve been doing things with Mercy Flight Southeast, which is part of the larger Angel Flight network — we volunteer our time and our planes and our fuel and we fly people who need medical treatment and we also do other types of humanitarian flights, and I was asked to help take some medical supplies to the British Virgin Islands.”

“We got the supplies from Mission Reagan, which is a Dallas-based charity — they had a connection with in the Virgin Islands,” he said.

But they didn’t come back stateside until after making a pit-stop to pick up a couple of people in need from Puerto Rico.

‘Katrina all over again’

Hurricane Irma was one of the strongest storms to ever form in the Atlantic. It was the fourth named hurricane of 2017. The island of Tortola, the largest of the isles, was devastated by Irma in the first week of September.

And just two weeks later, it was hit by Hurricane Maria.

“Tortola suffered so much damage from Hurricane Irma and then Maria hit right on top of that and it just added insult to serious injury,” Burdette said. “They were still digging out from Maria when we got there.”

Burdette said the damage he saw on his trip hit close to home.

“It was like seeing the damage from Katrina all over again, especially in Puerto Rico,” he said. “The wind damage was incredible — houses torn apart and power lines down all over the island — restoring the power is going to be a very long process in Tortola where they only have three trucks to serve the island.”

Puerto Rico stop

While on his trip, he said he transported supplies between several of the islands. He also picked up some precious cargo.

“We picked up two people in Puerto Rico that needed medical treatments like dialysis that they could not get there,” Burdette said. “We brought them to Ft. Lauderdale so they could receive proper medical treatment.”

  Comments