Husband digs by hand to save wife trapped in mission house destroyed in Haiti earthquake

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

US husband saves wife trapped in Haiti rubble

NEW YORK — A young American aid worker — trapped for about 10 hours under the rubble of her mission house that was destroyed in Haiti’s earthquake — has been rescued by her husband.

Frank Thorp told CBS’s “The Early Show” by phone from Haiti on Wednesday that he drove 100 miles to Port-au-Prince once he learned of the quake, and dug for over an hour to free his wife, Jillian, and her co-worker Charles Dietsch. The two were trapped under about a foot of concrete, he said.

“It was absolutely terrifying,” Thorp said.

Thorp said he was in an area about 6 hours north of the capital when the temblor struck. He got a quick call from his wife telling him she was trapped, and that was all. So he began his long drive toward the devastation.

Arriving at the destroyed house, he said he saw his wife’s hand from under the rubble and heard her tell him to keep it together and just get her out.

“We had to pull bricks and bricks and bricks and wood and doors and metal away for at least an hour before we were able to get her and her co-worker out,” he said.

Thorp is the son of retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, who retired in August as the Navy’s chief information officer.

Thorp’s father told The Associated Press the family received a report that his son and his wife made it to the U.S. embassy. He said he doesn’t know the extent of his daughter-in-law’s injuries, but that his son told him in the early morning that she had leg injuries but could walk with assistance.

“He said that the country was a disaster,” Thorp said. “He described thousands of people in the street; every other building had been destroyed. He also mentioned a lot of dead bodies.”

The executive director of Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, Conn., Emily Smack, told CBS a security guard at the mission house is still missing. A housecleaner had severe injuries and may lose both legs, she said.

Smack told AP that Jillian sounded “amazingly good” considering her ordeal when she spoke to her Wednesday morning and had suffered cuts and bruises. She said she was not sure about Dietsch’s injuries, but said he may have suffered leg and rib injuries, and that both were receiving medical treatment at the embassy.

Jillian said the earthquake came so fast they had no time to react, Smack said.

A night guard arrived to find the collapsed house and then heard Jillian and Dietsch banging on metal, Smack said. Two other men joined in digging them out from the rubble by hand and then Thorp arrived just as his wife’s arm was exposed through the rubble, Smack said.

Jillian Thorp’s father, Clay Cook of Old Saybrook, Conn., describes his daughter and son-in-law as “a strong couple” who each had their own trial to endure.

“Jill was pinned in the rubble and Frank was driving through the darkness, not sure what was waiting for him at the end of the drive,” he said.

The 7.0-magnitude tremor caused massive destruction in the Haitian capital. Untold numbers remain trapped, and the death toll has so far been impossible to calculate.

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