Florida College Scrambles for Information on Remaining Student in Haiti
Thursday, January 14, 2010
By Joshua Rhett Miller
From left, Montealegre, DeMatteo, Crispinelli, Fantauzzi, Doran, Elliott, Prudhomme, Schloemer, Hayes, Gengel, Tyska and Bruno
A Florida college says it has received word that 11 of 12 students who had been staying at a 4-star hotel in Haiti that toppled following Tuesday's devastating earthquake are safe.
Eight of those students have arrived in the Dominican Republic and 3 university staff members are in the process of meeting up with the group.
Officials at Lynn University continue to pursue "all options and avenues" to locate the remaining student and two professors.
Lynn University President Kevin Ross said the group was registered at Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, a popular tourist destination that collapsed after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake in the impoverished nation. Up to 200 guests at the hotel remained missing Wednesday, AFP reported.
Among the group visiting Haiti were Dr. Patrick Hartwick, dean of the university's College of Education, and Dr. Richard Bruno, an assistant professor with the university's College of Liberal Education. The group, which had been distributing food and visited orphanages, were scheduled to return to Florida Friday. The remaining student who accompanied Hartwick and Bruno was identified as Christine Gianacaci, of Hopewell, N.J.
Reached at her Florida home Thursday, Gianacaci's mother declined comment.
The Lynn University Crisis Management Team said parents receiving notifications from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. According to university, Daniela Montealegre, of Managua, Nicaragua; Nikki Fantauzzi, of Simsbury, Conn.; Michael DeMatteo, of Southlake, Texas; Paul Tyska, of Wilmette, Ill.; Lindsay Doran, of Clearwater, Fla.; Julie Prudhomme, of East Greenwich, R.I.; Thomas Schloemer, of Fox Point, Wis.; Melissa Elliott, of Hartland, Wis.; Stephanie Crispinelli, of Katonah, N.Y.; Courtney Hayes, of Boca Raton, Fla.; and Britney Gengel, of Rutland, Mass., have been found safe.
Prudhomme's mother told The Associated Press the family was "thrilled beyond measure" that their 21-year-old daughter is safe. The Rhode Island family had spent roughly 24 sleepless hours worried about her whereabouts.
Gengel's father told The Associated Press he received word early Thursday that his daughter had been found near her toppled Port-au-Prince hotel. Gengel said she was carried to a helicopter on a stretcher but did not appear severely injured.
Classes at Lynn University, a liberal arts institution in Boca Raton with roughly 2,000 undergraduates, resumed Thursday after being canceled Wednesday, university spokesman Jason Hughes said.
Lisa Elliott, who was informed early Thursday her daughter was safe, had last spoken to Melissa, 20, on Sunday and received a text message from her just prior to Tuesday's earthquake, citing the "horrible" conditions in the impoverished nation.
"She said, 'Mom, you wouldn't believe it, it's just horrible,'" Elliott told FoxNews.com on Wednesday.
Elliott said Lynn University Vice President Greg Malfitano informed her that rescue teams were hired by the school to fly from the Dominician Republic to Haiti in an effort to locate the students and faculty.
Elliott said her daughter, who is majoring in fashion merchandizing, had been volunteering at a hospital for disabled children.
"She's a very loving, caring person," Elliott said of her only child. "And she's done this before — she went to Panama to work in an orphanage."
Elliott said she intended to fly to Florida to meet her daughter as soon as she was found.
Hughes confirmed that an independent rescue team had been hired to locate the students and faculty members.
"We're trying every avenue open to us at this point," Hughes said.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Henry Hartwick said he had been told by university officials that his brother is safe but has yet to speak with him directly.
"I heard everybody's OK," Henry Hartwick told FoxNews.com. "Everybody in their party was accounted for."
Hartwick, of Varysburg, N.Y., said his younger brother had visited relatives in upstate New York last month.
Meanwhile, officials at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., say four faculty and staff members currently studying on the island nation are safe, as well as a student who had been participating in a service program in Haiti sponsored by the University of Miami.
Dennis Brown, a Notre Dame spokesman, said the university is now planning a Mass and a relief fund for those affected by the powerful earthquake.
Notre Dame's Haiti program is based in Leogane, roughly 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The quake's epicenter was 10 miles southwest of the capital.
"We are thankful that these dedicated members of the Notre Dame family are safe," Notre Dame University President Rev. John Jenkins said in a statement. "Our prayers are with them and all of those in Haiti in the wake of the disaster."
No information was immediately available regarding damage to the university's facilities in Haiti, Brown said.
Officials at Connecticut's Fairfield University are also trying to confirm the whereabouts of two students who returned to Haiti late last month to visit relatives during the college's winter break. Professor Gisela Gil-Egui told FoxNews.com the two undergraduate students were expected to return to Connecticut this upcoming weekend.
One of the students was identified by Gil-Egui as Francesca LeGros, a sociology major originally from Port-au-Prince.
"We don't know yet if they are fine," Gil-Egui said. "We are really worried, obviously."