Announcement on missing six from Lynn held Wednesday

Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

BOCA RATON, FL (WFLX) - Officials with Lynn University spoke with the state department which said crews remain at the Hotel Montana site clearing away sections of the building. But, it's not clear how long those crews will remain on sight.

UPDATE, WED 7 AM: Lynn's president, Kevin Ross, will address students and faculty privately at 11:50 a.m. Wednesday. Private meetings with the University's Academic council will follow these meetings regarding unofficial reports some of the missing students and professors were found dead over the weekend.

Two families went out to the hotel site over the weekend. One of the fathers of a missing student spoke for both families said the trip provided some closure.

Following Wednesday's private private meetings, Lynn's president will give a public statement about the rescue and recovery efforts.

We will bring you new information when it comes available.

Update, TUE 6 PM: Reports from the site of the Hotel Montana Tuesday night suggest that search and rescue and recovery teams were both at work Tuesday.

On a conference call for families this afternoon, State Department officials indicated that heavy equipment was in use as crews begin clearing away sections of the building. However, no official end to rescue efforts has been announced.

Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross will address students, staff and faculty Wednesday at 11:50 a.m. in the Lynn student center dining hall. Private meetings with the university's Academic Council and other offices and individuals will follow.

At 2 p.m., Ross will give a statement to, and answer questions from, credentialed media assembled on the Lynn University campus. This will be followed by a 2:30 p.m. conference call.

Update, TUE 11 AM: Reports from the ground in Port-au-Prince, as well as communications to families of the missing from the Department of State, indicate that search and rescue operations at the Hotel Montana are slowly transitioning to recovery. Heavy equipment is reportedly in use and U.S. search and rescue teams are said to be in the process of handing over the site to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers later Tuesday. That said, no official pronouncement regarding the switch to recovery has been received.

As outlined in recent updates, Lynn University is still awaiting confirmation regarding the status of its missing four students and two faculty members. We are told that a consular with the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince will be reporting any news directly to the families.

Update, MON 11 AM: Reports to Lynn University officials Monday morning indicate rescue operations continue in some capacity at the Hotel Montana site, but that work on-site is increasingly shifting toward search and recovery.

According to Monday morning's updates, a search and rescue team from Fairfax, Va., is still on site and will remain until fully relieved by U.S. military teams.

At this time, neither the State Department nor the Haiti Taskforce team has officially called an end to rescue operations at the Hotel Montana. Once official word is received, that transition will be noted in an update to the Lynn alert site.

Press reports unconfirmed
Yesterday and this morning there have been a number of press reports indicating that one or more of the missing Journey of Hope members have been identified on site. Lynn University cannot confirm those reports. At this time, university officials have not learned of any Department of State notifications. As noted below, such official notifications are the responsibility of the State Department and will directed initially toward the families. The university will only confirm such reports after they are received by the families, the university is notified, and Lynn officials are granted permission to share that information with the campus community and general public.

Update, SAT 11 AM: Lynn University officials Saturday morning are closely following major media reports that suggest the Haitian government has called off search and rescue operations in the country. At this hour, there are conflicting reports about whether or not such operations have in fact ended at the Hotel Montana site in particular. cSuch a site status can only be officially declared by the Haitian government or publicly confired by U.S. officials.

At this hour, Lynn officials have seen no such official reports.

Update, FRI 11 AM: Search and rescue continues at the Hotel Montana

Search and rescue continues Friday on the site of the Hotel Montana. Reports to Lynn officials indicate that these activities will continue throughout the day.

No additional details are available at this hour.

Update: THU 6 PM: President Kevin M. Ross remarks from 5 p.m. press briefing

As we all know, the world suffered one of the greatest natural disasters in history last Tuesday. The 7.0 earthquake that was centered just outside Port-au-Prince imperiled the lives of all those in Haiti, including 14 members of our Lynn University family who were there on a mission trip. All 14 were on site at the Hotel Montana when the quake struck, and we have reason to believe that our four missing students and two faculty may be there still.

In the nine days since that tragedy, we have all been captivated by the stories of heroism, triumph, anguish and loss that have followed in the wake of this earthquake. And every day, we rejoice for what good news has been broadcast out of the country: the elderly woman rescued from beneath a crumbled cathedral; the child pulled alive and almost completely well from a wrecked home. As the family members of our missing students and employees have said in recent days, we have taken comfort in these reports, and celebrated them almost as if they were our own good news.

And for good reason. It is our good news. This tragedy is not a Lynn University tragedy alone. It does not affect just us, our community members, and their families. It affects us all. It affects people from around the world. It affects those that survived, and those that did not. And it impacts most severely those in Haiti itself – the people who call that country home.

Our "Journey of Hope" students went to Haiti to deliver hope. Eight have returned. And six remain missing. We still have hope– hope that a miracle is in the making. Hope that our six are found safe and sound. And hope that many others too will be freed and reunited with loved ones around the world. That remains our most ardent wish here at Lynn University.

But there is another hope we have. A different kind of hope. And it is that hope that I wish to express tonight. We have hope that whatever the days ahead may bring, that we have the United States government's assurance that every person lost in this tragedy will be returned to their loved ones.

I want this personally. I want this for the families of our missing students and faculty, and our more than three dozen employees and eight students with family missing in the country. And I want it for the campus community I serve– a community that will need to grieve as well.

This is needed for every grieving father, son, mother, daughter, friend and neighbor who is aching at this very moment for a phone call. Whenever that phone call comes, I join the families of our missing six in demanding that such a call contain news of the whereabouts of the missing. A missing family member, whether alive or dead, must be returned to his or her loved ones.

Forces are mounting in defense against such a call. From the outset of this crisis my office has been served in immeasurable ways by Senator George S. LeMieux and Congressman Ron Klein and their staffs in Florida and D.C. The two have helped however they could to aid us in our search efforts. And tonight they are standing with us to ask Secretary Clinton and others to ensure that all Americans missing and unaccounted for in Haiti be returned home.

This is the assurance our campus community – and the families of these missing loved ones – will require in the days ahead. And many other American families will appreciate the same. Tonight I have a letter already signed by Senator LeMieux urging the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the U.S. Agency for International Development to continue "search and rescue efforts until the possibility of survival no longer exists" and to do "everything within (their) power to ensure that every American known to be missing in Haiti is located and returned home."

I am so thankful for the senator's support, and the support of Congressman Klein, who has also pledged to back us in this push. We hope all of our elected officials will join us – including those in Massachusetts, Georgia, New Jersey and New York, the home states of our four missing students. So many have already shown their support and concern. But now, we need assurances. We need a commitment to returning the missing to their families. Only this will give the families of the victims the peace they need to carry on.

We have been saying from the beginning how thankful we are for the prayers and support we have received here at Lynn University. The outpouring of support has been incredible. Please continue to offer those prayers and cross those fingers. We still believe in miracles. And we wish those same miracles upon all of you who are still uncertain at this hour.

Thank you all. And God bless.

Update: THU 5:10 PM: Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross addressed the media Thursday evening on their search for the four missing students and two faculty members. Ross says the University still has hope for a miracle.

Update, THU 11 AM: Reports to Lynn University officials Thursday morning indicate that search and rescue operations continue on the site of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince. However, those reports indicate that the resources allotted to that effort Thursday appear to be somewhat diminished from Wednesday.

Search operations also continue Thursday morning in the Dominican Republic, where Lynn staff remain engaged in the process of searching hospitals and transportation centers for news regarding the condition of our missing four students and two faculty members.

Update, WED 4 PM: Search and rescue efforts continue at this hour on the site of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince. Reports put the number of active search and rescue teams at seven.

Efforts also continue Wednesday afternoon in the Dominican Republic, where Lynn staffers are again visiting hospitals to seek out information regarding the university's missing four students and two faculty members.

Update, WED 11 AM: No new information available at this hour, search continues at Hotel Montana.

The condition and location of the missing Lynn University students from the "Journey of Hope-Haiti" are still unknown at this hour, though information provided to Lynn officials indicates that search and rescue operations continue at the Hotel Montana.

Magnitude 6.1 aftershock in Haiti: Shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, a magnitude 6.1 aftershock struck near Port-au-Prince, according to the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey). The tremor was confirmed to be felt at the Hotel Montana site. Search and rescue efforts were temporarily suspended, but reports indicate that they have since resumed.

Update TUE 8 PM: Crews continue to work Tuesday evening on the Hotel Montana site, sources tell Lynn officials. Some half-dozen teams from across the world were said to be working the site throughout Tuesday afternoon, and activities are expected to continue through the night, as well.

Activities also continue Tuesday evening in the Dominican Republic, where Lynn staff continue their efforts to locate Lynn's four missing students and two faculty members.

Update TUE 4 PM: Search and rescue operations continue at this hour on the Hotel Montana site in Port-au-Prince. However, no additional details regarding Lynn's missing four students and two faculty members are available at this hour.

President Ross comforts campus community

In remarks to the campus community today at 12:30 p.m., Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross updated students and employees on the ongoing search efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

In his comments, delivered to a standing room only crowd in the Lynn student center cafeteria, Ross pressed everyone to continue to be hopeful for a good end to the search, and pointed out counseling services that were available to all members of the campus community should they need them. He also reported that scheduled classes and athletic events would continue without interruption at this time.

Lynn University Haiti Crisis Fund site now live

In this morning's 11 a.m. briefing, university officials announced a new university fund available to those wishing to support "members of our campus community, including students, faculty, and staff members, who have been affected by the Haiti earthquake event."

To learn more, or make a donation, visit <> .

Update TUE 12 PM: The president of Lynn University is having a closed door meeting with students and faculty members to update them on the situation at 12:30 Tuesday. Classes are suspended at Lynn from 11-1.

This small campus has been on edge for seven days waiting to hear any word about their whereabouts.

Tuesday, we learned rescue efforts are continuing at the Hotel Montana, where the students were when the earthquake hit. Also, Miami-Dade urban search and rescue will be on the ground to assist in the rescue mission. With this new information, the President at Lynn wanted to gather with his students to talk about the hope they all have.

Jason Hughes, with Lynn University, said in a press briefing at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, "We're just going to continue to listen and look for updates and pray and believe in the best. We really are hopeful, as the families tend to be, that we will get good news."

Lynn University has set-up a fund to help with the 35 Haitian employees they have and eight Haitian students. Check back here for the link to the fund.

Update TUE 11 AM: Search efforts continue Tuesday for the missing six and Lynn University has Haiti crisis fund.

Reports overnight and Tuesday morning indicate that search and rescue operations continue at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, where Lynn students and faculty on the "Journey of Hope - Haiti" trip were staying when the earthquake struck. As reported in yesterday's 7 p.m. update, a Miami-Dade urban search and rescue squad is said to be on site and participating as a part of the larger coordinated rescue effort. Efforts also continue Tuesday in the Dominican Republic to seek news regarding our missing four students and two faculty.

Among other updates Tuesday morning, the crisis team at Lynn also received word that two university employees, who were vacationing in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, had made contact and were safe in the country.

President Ross to address campus:

Classes are being suspended Tuesday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the Lynn campus, as offices, colleges and students gather to get the latest update on the Haiti situation from members of the university cabinet and Crisis Management Team. President Ross will address the campus personally at 12:30 p.m. in the Lynn student center.

Fund established to aid those touched by tragedy In addition to the 14 Lynn families touched by the earthquake that occurred in Haiti last week, the university has some three dozen university employees, and eight students who are from Haiti. In aid of all of those families, and to answer requests received from alumni, students and friends of the university over the last week, Lynn has created a Lynn University Haiti Crisis Fund. Monies directed to that fund will be used "to assist members of our campus community, including students, faculty, and staff members, who have been affected by the Haiti earthquake event".

As the wording associated with this fund currently states, the university encourages everyone to "support relief efforts for Haiti and her people. We leave the specific charity to your discretion".

Update, MON 7 PM: Monday evening, reports from the ground suggest that search and rescue efforts continue at the Hotel Montana site, and that a team from Miami-Dade arrived on the scene today to support the effort. This afternoon and evening, activities continue as well in the Dominican Republic, where family members and Lynn staff and faculty continue to comb airports, hospitals and other transfer sites for news of our missing four students and two faculty members.

Update: MON 3 PM: Lynn University officials continue to receive reports regarding ongoing search and rescue activities Monday at the Hotel Montana in Port au Prince, Haiti.

The University is also receiving regular updates concerning our search team's efforts in the Dominican Republic Monday

However, no additional details regarding the location or condition of our missing four (4) students and two (2) faculty have become available at this time.

Luminaries to be lit Monday at 8 p.m.
Lynn students will continue to light candles each night on campus until all members of our campus community have returned home from Haiti.

Update: MON 11 AM: The condition and location of the missing Lynn University students from the "Journey of Hope-Haiti" are still unknown at this hour; though, information provided to Lynn officials indicates that search and rescue operations continue at the Hotel Montana. Additional search operations by Lynn staff and family members of the missing also are continuing Monday in the Dominican Republic.

Update: MON 10 AM: Lit candles line Lynn University following a vigil held Sunday night. Thousands of students, friends and family are praying for the safe return of four students and two professors still missing in Haiti.

There are about 2,000 undergrads at Lynn University and the student body is tight knit. They held hands Sunday night under the Haitian flag on campus -- everyone wants to see four young women and two professors come home.

Students are showing family members of the missing they're not in this alone. But there is hope as another day starts -- hope to see more survivors pulled from the Hotel Montana site where the six missing members of the group were last seen.

"It gives us more hope when you keep seeing people pulled out alive that's more hope for us that our loved ones are getting home," says one student.

The candles will stay until everyone is back home safe.

University officials say operations at the Hotel Montana, where the group was staying, are continue day and night.

The missing are students are:

  • Stephanie Crispinelli from Katonah, New York
  • Courtney Hayes from Boca Raton, Florida
  • Christine Gianacaci from Hopewell, New Jersey
  • Britney Gengel from Rutland, Massachusetts

The missing professors are:

  • Patrick Hartwick, Dean of the Ross College of Education
  • Richard Bruno, assistant professor in the College of Liberal Education

Update: SUN 7 PM: Lynn University officials received no new updates Sunday regarding the condition or location of the four (4) students and two (2) faculty members who are still missing following Tuesday's earthquake.

Throughout the day Sunday, operations in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have continued, and Lynn's Crisis Management Team is told that operations at the Hotel Montana will continue through the night.

Update: SAT 8 PM: Saturday morning and throughout Friday night, work continued to locate and rescue the six remaining members of Lynn University's "Journey for Hope-Haiti" team.

Hotel Montana

Reports we've received confirm that search and rescue operations have continued throughout the night at the Hotel Montana site. Our original contractor and rescue team on the ground continues its work at this hour, concentrating resources on the site of the hotel where our group was last known to be. A reinforcement team loaded with light search and rescue equipment is expected to join those teams this morning already on the ground who, we're told, still have crews urgently looking for survivors today.

The second rescue team under contract with Lynn was also delayed last evening when a flight on which they were flying was turned back at Port-au-Prince airport. Our own staff has since secured them seats on an 11 a.m. charter helicopter flight.

Dominican Republic

Lynn teams consisting of family members and staff are still in the Dominican Republic at this hour as well, and continue their efforts to canvass hospitals, transfer points and airports for news of our missing staff and students. The new arrivals were debriefed upon landing yesterday and are continuing this work at this hour.

Efforts Continue

From the beginning, other resources – in addition to international and national aid organizations and military units – have been brought to bear on Lynn's behalf, and those efforts continue today as well. We had another update last night from a former staff member who has been traveling to the hotel site by foot to search for news of our students and staff among those evacuating the injured. And yesterday we received another update from a Lynn alumnus who has been on site for two days aiding in rescue efforts in the hopes of helping find our students and staff.

And, of course, today the university continues to seek information regarding the whereabouts of university staff in the country. The two staff members known to have been vacationing in the country are still unaccounted for at this hour.

Update: FRI 5 PM: At this hour, very little in the way of new information has come to light regarding the condition or location of the remaining six members of the Lynn University "Journey for Hope" group. However, what new details are known regarding ongoing activities are included below

Hotel Montana rescue efforts ongoing
Lynn officials are told that the rescue group aiding in locating missing Lynn students and faculty has a number of teams in different locations today in Port-au-Prince. Two-member teams are working separately at the Hotel Montana, airport, Red Cross stations, and embassy. A single individual from this rescue team is doing medical tent rounds trying to identify and locate our missing students and staff.

At this hour, personnel on the ground at the Hotel Montana are expecting a dedicated, five-person search and rescue unit to be arriving with orders to search those locations where missing Lynn faculty and students may be trapped. They have been supplied with photos, hotel renderings and the room numbers where we believe our students may have been at the time of the earthquake. We are told this group will be equipped to work through the night.

Crucible rescue organization retained by Lynn to aid in effort
At the earlier press briefing, members of the media requested the identity of the rescue unit the university had retained directly. The name of that organization is Crucible. They have units en-route from the Dominican Republic this afternoon. No firm time of arrival at the Hotel Montana has been established. We'll give you more details on their efforts when we have them.

Efforts in the Dominican Republic
Three university staff members who landed in the Dominican Republic continue their work this afternoon and evening. In their latest update to our Crisis Management Team, we learned that they had canvassed every hospital in Santo Domingo looking for news regarding our students and faculty, and have checked the rolls of the embassy officials posted at those locations, among other activities. At this time, they have not yet located any missing members of our campus community.
We are told that the first of two transport planes has landed. Our staff members on the ground are now observing the unboarding and processing in the hopes of identifying Lynn members among these groups.

This Lynn team will be joined later this evening in the DR by additional Lynn University staff who are escorting one set of parents of a missing Lynn student, as well as the son of one of the missing faculty members and a close personal friend of that missing faculty member to the country. The university has provided transport, hotel accommodations, and counseling services for these family members at their request, and has also briefed them on the situation on the ground to the best of our ability.

Barring any breaking news, the next update will be posted no later than 10 p.m. this evening.

Previously: As of this hour, separate rescue efforts underway to locate and evacuate four (4) missing Lynn University students and two (2) faculty members are focusing on transfer and holding sites in the Dominican Republic and the Hotel Montana site in Haiti.

Based on details provided by some of the eight (8) students flown home yesterday evening and arriving early this morning in Boca Raton, rescue teams working on Lynn's behalf are focusing additional resources in Haiti on the Hotel Montana site, where Lynn's 14 "Journey of Hope" members were staying during their trip to the country. Student reports indicate that the eight students evacuated overnight were together within minutes of the Tuesday evening earthquake, and stayed together until they were returned to the Lynn campus, and their families and friends, at approximately 12 a.m. this morning. Those student reports indicate that they believe the four missing students and two faculty members were in separate areas within the hotel at the time of the earthquake. Faculty members Patrick Hartwick and Richard Bruno are believed to have been in the fitness center at the time of the quake. The remaining students are thought to have been in their hotel rooms, which were located on the first and second floors of the Hotel Montana.

These reports have also been reinforced this morning by Lynn officials who have spoken with a Food for the Poor representative who was with the group in the Hotel Montana, and is currently in the hospital in the Dominican Republic for injuries sustained in the collapse of at least a portion of the hotel. (Lynn University is not releasing this individual's name at this time.)

Rescue teams that have been on the ground since Wednesday at 2 p.m. are currently focusing much of their efforts at this hour on the Hotel Montana as a result of these reports. Lynn officials have been told that reinforcements and resources are expected today, and may have already arrived, to aid in the search efforts. Additionally, the university is expecting members of a second rescue company (retained by Lynn) to arrive on site today as well.

Efforts in the Dominican Republic continue
Thursday evening three members of the Lynn staff arrived in the Dominican Republic to meet evacuating students (the 8 accounted for) as well to search for missing students and faculty. Since that time, the three-person team – Chris Boniforti, chief information officer; Sheila Sheppard, associate director of the Center for Global Education and Citizenship; and Anthony Altieri, assistant dean of students – have continued to seek out information regarding those missing individuals, in addition to helping accelerate the evacuation last night of the eight Lynn students to Fort Lauderdale International airport's private terminal.

The group Friday continues to canvass aid centers, airports, hotels and embassy outposts, among other installations, in the Dominican Republic for news of Lynn's missing students (4) and faculty (2).