Luttrell Assists Family in Escape From Haiti
Beverly Cantrell - October 28, 2021 6:42 am
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Ken Luttrell, R-Ponca City, recently assisted a family with Oklahoma ties to escape from Haiti in the midst of societal unrest in the country.
Living only blocks from the recent kidnappings of 17 missionaries, the Bellaus family found themselves stranded in a compound unable to safely venture out for food, fuel or other necessities. Gario, Maggie and Keeran sought help from the Canadian Consulate as Maggie and Keeran have Canadian passports. However, the Consulate could not help Gario due to a government shutdown stemming from the violence. That is when Luttrell stepped in.
“Maggie’s aunt, Corrine Wohlgemuth, is a resident of Grove, OK and reached out to me for assistance,” Luttrell said. “I immediately got in contact with Sen. James Lankford’s staff who reached out to the state department and our embassy in Haiti. They contacted relatives here in Oklahoma, and the family in Haiti, with advice, suggestions and important phone numbers for them to call. Even with spotty cellphone and internet service in the country, I was able to stay in almost daily contact with the family as they planned their escape.”
Kidnappings are on the rise in Haiti with at least 328 being reported in the first eight months of 2021. This is compared to a total of 234 for all of 2020. The kidnappings stem from an increase in Haitian gang activity as the country recovers from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in southern Haiti that killed more than 2,200 people on Aug. 14.
“This family was doing volunteer work at an orphanage when all of the violence and rioting started,” Luttrell said. “Imagine having a one-year-old son and getting caught up in this dangerous situation. My desire was to get them all safely to Oklahoma, but the situation had worsened to the point that the family could not get to the U.S. Consulate and were not sure they could safely reach the airport as the streets are controlled by gangs. I am pleased to share that Maggie and Keeran were able to make the hazardous trip to the airport and arrived in Oklahoma late Sunday night. They are now resting and recovering with relatives.”
Luttrell continued, “On behalf of the family and myself, I would like to thank Field Representative Tanner Roberts, and all of Sen. Lankford’s D.C. staff, for their help during this dangerous time. Due to visa issues, Gario had to remain in Haiti, but Sen. Lankford’s staff is working to get him an appointment with the U.S. Consulate in order to expedite a visa and reunite him with his family.”