When Michelle Key Abercrombie heard her father, brother and another member of a team wrapping up a mission in Haiti had wrecked on the Dominican Republic side of the island of Hispaniola, she was relieved. After all, Haiti bears the stigma of being the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere.
But that relief turned into “a nightmare” for the team trying to make it home to Ellijay for Christmas — and their families, Abercrombie said.
Randy Key, 59, his son Derek Key, 35, and Sam Rogers, a recent graduate of Gilmer High School, had crossed the border into the Dominican Republic on the night of Dec. 19 when a scooter without tail lights pulled out of an alleyway, Abercrombie related. Randy Key swerved to miss the man and the car rolled three times. Their flight home was to leave on Dec. 20.
Abercrombie said her brother, who sustained the worst injuries, had a head wound, broken collar bone, collapsed lungs with bleeding, a broken wrist and back injuries, plus contusions and abrasions all over his body. Her father was “cut up pretty bad from the glass and lost a lot of blood and had to have stitches in his foot.”
Rogers suffered a foot injury that required surgery, said Anne Gray of East Ellijay Baptist Church, which supports Then Prove It Ministries, an outreach formed by Randy Key that has an orphanage in Haiti where they had been working.
Derek Key and Rogers were in Erlanger Trauma Center in Chattanooga on Dec. 26 in “fair” condition, according to a spokeswoman. But Abercrombie said later that day her brother had been readmitted to the intensive care unit with a collapsed lung.
“Dad has a broken cheek bone and he’s going to have to have surgery on the right side of his face to repair the nerve damage and the damage to his nose,” she reported.
But it was less of a setback than it would have been in the Dominican Republic, Abercrombie shared, where the staff there would not give the men food or drink for three days, or let them go to the bathroom. Her brother was also bleeding internally there without being treated, she added.
“They wouldn’t do surgery until they had cash or proof of insurance,” she said. “I’d been on the phone with state representatives and the (U.S.) embassy. They took their passports and said they couldn’t leave until they paid. It was a nightmare.”
After finally settling with the hospital — which had tried to charge them for surgery to Randy Key that never took place, Abercrombie said — Derek made it back to the U.S. early Saturday morning and the others arrived later that day.
Derek Key has had surgery to have blood clots removed and is in a “turtle back” brace for his back, Abercrombie shared.
“Dad swerved to miss the guy and the car flipped three times,” Abercrombie said. “Derek didn’t have a seat belt on, but there’s a lot of times we get those rental cars over there and there’s not seat belts in them. We always wear our seat belts in Haiti because they drive so crazy over there. We thought there must not have been one in there.”
She said the scooter driver fled the scene of the accident, but somebody “came up on them and recognized daddy and Derek from being in Haiti seven years.”
“They got in touch with the missionary that we work with and he actually called us from the Dominican and let us know they had been in a serious accident,” she recounted. “On the morning of Dec. 20 we found out which hospital they were in. A missionary in Haiti who was visiting relatives in Peru got on Skype with my sister, Dedra, and was sending out people to all the hospitals in the area on both sides of the border all night long to find where three Americans who were in a wreck had been taken.”
Abercrombie said her brother had just started a new job and did not have insurance, although he had purchased some before the trip through the airlines they were traveling with. She said there could be fundraisers soon to help cover medical costs.
A spokesman for the Rogers family said they did not want to comment for a news article. Gray said a prayer chain has been ongoing for the mission team members.