St. John Rescue Press Conference Notes 9.13.17

St. John Rescue Press Conference Notes 9.13.17


  •      Jonathan Shames – St. John Rescue Relief President
  •      Margaret Pokorny – Wife of St. John Rescue worker

Attending Journalists:

  •      Huffington Post 
  •      Wall Street Journal 

Jonathan Shames – St. John Rescue Relief President’s Statement  

St. John Relief has brought in Global Disaster, secured a MediVac helicopter, but has been overwhelmed with rescue asks. They are using thermal and K9 to find people. They have set up Gator system in Cruz Bay for cell service. All of this was made possible through donations from their website, GoFundMe and PayPal.

Jonathan Shames has not been on St. John island yet. People are most in need on the Coral Bay side of the island, in general, the entire island has taken a devastating blow, so aid is needed all over.

There is no hospital on St. John, there is only a medical clinic. Most people would normally go to St. Thomas, which has been destroyed. People are being taken to Puerto Rico or St.Croix where there are more lodgings and access to the airports.

  • How did you prepare in advance of the storm?
  • I don’t think there is any way to fully prepare for a Cat 5 hurricane. We moved around our assets and vehicles to different locations to make sure we didn’t lose everything. The winds were just too much for most structures though.
  • There have been reports of looting and violence, which has been played down by the government. What is really going on?
  • I would confirm that the reports of looting on St. John are utter nonsense. I have spoken to people who were there and they didn’t witness anything like that. It is a tight knit community and everyone has been working together. We have heard that people are breaking into vacation rentals to get food, but that’s about it.
  • I have heard that people are worried about their pets, how do people get help getting their pets?
  • The ACC and the Canines and Critters are working with pet owners to help facilitate getting pets. You need an animal health certificate, which is only good for 10 days, to get pets off the island. It would be great if that process could be expedited, as many people have pets and can’t coordinate that process from St. John.
  • Are there regular ferry services yet?
  • I can only say that volunteers from Puerto Rico and St Croix are taking people out. There is no ferry service yet. There is a bit of disinformation on when the St Thomas airport will be open, so people are worried about getting stuck there. It is normally a 15 min ferry that would go between St. John and St. Thomas.
  • We have a guy going in tomorrow from the Wall Street Journal, how will he get wifi?
  • There is a Gator wifi that has been set up, it will span a 3 block radius. It was $70K, and was donated. Global DIRT, Adam Marla, will be the contact. Jonathan can provide sat phone number if needed.
  • How can people help?
  • Donating to St. John Rescue and to St. John Community Foundation are the two best organizations. For instance St. John Rescue has purchased $30K of diesel fuel to ship to St. John.

Margaret Pokorny, the wife of St. John Rescue worker, Bryan Barnes, who was evacuated to Puerto Rico on Monday, shared her experience of the relief efforts following Irma.

Before the search and rescue effort even happened, my husband took his trauma kit and went to the Coral Bay fire house to see how he could help. The first day everyone was just checking on people nearby and neighbors.

The Coral Bay Community Foundation brought in a SAT phone the following day and allowed everyone 60 seconds to tell one person that they were okay.

The ambulance in Coral Bay was damaged, fortunately, St.John Rescue had another that was used as a triage unit.

All road clearing was being done by locals. As soon as the road was passable they were getting supplies from to Coral Bay from Cruz Bay. 

There is one place in Cruz Bay that gets cell service, above the pizza place.

St. John is comprised mostly of rental villas, the Westin and Caneel Bay were both heavily damaged and since it is off season thankfully there weren’t many tourists staying there.

Photos have slowly been leaking out and posted online. I can only speak to Coral Bay, but immediately going outside, it looked like someone had cut all the trees in half with a weed whacker. It was very post apocalyptic looking.There are no leaves and no trees left on the island. The trees on the hill across were completely gone, but one over was fine, there was no rhyme or reason. 

We could only see two boats on their moorings out of 40 in Coral Bay harbor.  Coral Bay is a very much a live-aboard community, so it is a devastating loss for those people.

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