INS news agency feature writer Samantha Daynes flew to the hurricane-hit island of Grenada, loaded with medical supplies bought by Cecily Lewis for her brother’s stricken hospital.
Virgin Atlantic waived its baggage allowance, enabling them to load six suitcases crammed with vital medicines aboard a 747.
When the aircraft disembarked in Barbados, Samantha and Cecily were allowed to stay aboard and fly on to Grenada.
Their bags were filled with supplies for the devastated St Augustine’s Medical Centre, left without power, heating and water by Hurricane Ivan, which was followed by Hurricane Jean.
Lewis, from Shepperton, whose brother Joe works at the hospital, launched an immediate appeal. She called INS deputy editor Tom Hendry (whose wife Jacqui Thake, a Sunday Mirror sub, is a friend of Cecily) to see if he would approach his airline contacts.
By chance, Virgin Atlantic had planned three relief flights of its own to Grenada and agreed to Hendry’s request to take Cecily and an INS writer to the island.
Neil Hyde, editor of INS News Group, added: “We saw this as a brilliant chance for one of our writers to see at first hand the aftermath of the hurricane.”
On her return from Grenada this week, Daynes told Press Gazette: “My first sight of the island was to remain one of the most prominent throughout my stay – army soldiers looting the looters, civilians living off each other’s handouts and the lack of authority around the island was overwhelming.
“I was devastated to learn that, as with most aid crises, the people who need the supplies the most are not receiving the substantial amount they so desperately need.”