Within the days of activities that we carry out in different parts of the island, there are events that mark you in one way or another. Today was one of those days that became unforgettable…🙄
The Lajas Valley Fly…
Team Kamikazes was very early to fly in the Lajas Valley. At about 6:30 AM, the pilots Luis Ruiz, Berto García, Damian Sánchez, the international pilots Samuel Travis, Richard Socher and Deron Freeman were already preparing to take off, as well as Ian Darrell, who if all went well, would go to fly alongside his father Darrell Sr. on the Trike. Also present were the ultralight pilots, Arnaldo and William. Full House of pilots looking to live their adventure in the Valley.
The first to fly was Samuel, followed by Richard, and eventually by Deron, and Ian on the Trike with his father, as well as ultralight pilots Arnaldo and William.
Damian after a couple of attempts and with his glider wet, cancelled his fly. Luis and Berto had been delayed helping the rest of the pilots to take off. And eventually preferred to stay in the area of the track waiting for the pilots to get back safely.
Richard and Samuel flew over the La Parguera mountains and then circled the Sierra Bermeja Mountains. Ian went with his father throughout the Valley at a good altitude. (1,000 to 1,700 ft).
After already two hours of flight, Deron, Ian, and Richard were already landed on the runway. But Samuel was still flying? He was the first to launch 🙄. Richard arrived with the news… he had seen where Samuel had landed, and it was not a good place for a rescue 😑.
The Rescue Mission…
Thanks to Richard, we found that Samuel had landed in the Cartagena Lagoon. This is a wildlife refuge close to the Sierra Bermeja that is difficult to access. It has trails for bike routes, but its accesses are closed to vehicles… Richard flew over the area and managed to mark the landing area, which he sent us, so we could locate it on our GPS. It was around 9:30 AM, and the story of the rescue had just begun 😑…
We set up a search convoy with ATV vehicles. Berto García in his vehicle, Deron with Luis in a rented Jeep Wrangler and Richard in another ATV vehicle also rented. The path indicated by the GPS where only ATVs access roads.
Once we were on a road near the location of Samuel, he was able to communicate with us by phone. Although it had gotten wet, continued to work. And in a matter of about 15 minutes, we meet with Samuel near a watchtower located in the Lagoon.
Samuel was exhausted and ready to go home and leave his equipment lying in the lagoon to pick it up another day. At least he had been able to leave his equipment on high grass in the lagoon. He told us, that the water to get out of there had sometimes reached his neck, since when walking through the swamp, it sank with every step, so it was not possible for him to get out of there with his equipment 😲.
Richard and Deron said goodbye since they had commitments with their families. So, Luis Ruiz stayed with Berto, and Dave Hargett, another local pilot from Lajas, who had also come to help. The possibilities of rescuing the equipment in the day were evaluated and the only thing that could possibly help us there was a kayak to travel through the Lagoon. The waters of the lagoon were black, and full of dirt and insects… getting into those waters was nothing more than a feat.
Berto called his cousin Randy who was in Mayaguez and there’s a Kayak available. While Randy was getting ready and arriving with the kayak to Lajas, we went to Samuel’s house so that he could take a bath and drink water.
At 11 AM we were back on Track heading to the Laguna Cartagena. We have the luck or by fate, that Dave Hargett and Samuel Travis had found a Federal Officer of Wild Life Refugee named Angel at a gas station. He is in charge of guarding the land of Laguna Cartagena among other federal wildlife refuges in the Caribbean 💪.
After explaining to him the situation, he agreed to open the gates so that we could had better access to the rescue. He eventually stayed with us until the end of the process.
Arriving at the Observation Tower, and its surroundings, we understood that the best option was to use the Kayak leaving in front of the same Tower. The detail is that the Kayak was not big enough to accommodate two people, and if this was possible, it would not be after the paraglider or paramotor was put on it… So, somebody would have to get into that lagoon with sewage water 😑…
Berto was the man in charge!!!. Initially depart with Samuel as a passenger, but when trying to cross part of the Lagoon he understood that he would have to do this alone. So, he returned Samuel to the shore, and left alone… After about 45 minutes in the tower surveillance, we managed to see Berto in the Kayak returning with the paraglider. It was mounted on the back of the Kayak 💪.
We helped him get it out. Samuel and Dave went to work untangling it and putting it away. Now came the complicated part… the glider was light and it was easy to handle for Berto, but the Paramotor was big and heavy, that was another story…
After analyzing the options, Samuel would have to stay, mainly due to language problems. It was not correct to put Samuel and Berto in the rescue area, one speaking English and the other Spanish, and not understanding each other!!!
The best option was his cousin Randy, who also has very good experience in rescues. They were very heavy, so one would have to swim in those dirt waters 😑 .
This time the wait last more than an hour. Berto told us that he was even using his stockings as a marker for his route for the Kayak, (which he left lost along the way).
After at least an hour, they came back with the Paramotor in the back of the Kayak. Randy was controlling the Kayak, and Berto return swimming at his side and pushing the Kayak along the way!!! When they leave the water, they need to throw out their shirts and pants. A lot of roach and insects were running through their bodies. What an incommode situation for them 😟.
We left there at 2:30 PM, definitely an unforgettable experience in our lives. Thanks GOD everything was OK 🙏.