As the vicious winds and surge of Hurricane Dorian whirled around Grand Bahama, D’Sean Smith, 39, a resident of Freeport, decided to hop on his jet ski and take a small team to assist him with rescue missions in nearby neighborhoods.
Smith said the action was triggered by a phone call he received from a family trapped in a house with rapidly rising water.
“At this time, I’m kind of concerned and I know that they have three kids; so I told him that, ‘My jet ski is full of gas and I’m going to take a path to you guys,’” Smith said.
“This was the Monday of the storm. I took two of my guys from work because I’m a general contractor. They came over to my house in the middle of the storm and we pretty much attempted to cross a point that was closer than we’d normally take to get to their house by water because by land it was pretty much consumed by water at that point.”
He said the journey would’ve been roughly 20 minutes.
However, it was unsuccessful.
“We set off about 8:30 a.m. that Monday in the water and made it about 300 yards and realized it was just too dangerous,” Smith told The Nassau Guardian.
“You couldn’t navigate. You couldn’t see. The waves were high and this was over land essentially and I realized that it was just too dangerous.”
He described the conditions as “intense”.
“I’m used to operating a jet ski in some winds but literally the winds [were] trying to topple the jet ski over,” Smith said.
“The problem with being over land is you had no idea what was beneath you.”
Although Smith’s attempts to rescue his friend’s family was unsuccessful on September 2, he said he was still able to rescue dozens of other people.
“I ended up going to rescue a family member on the other side of town…about 11 o’clock after that attempt failed,” Smith said.
“That led me to pull about 40 people from that neighborhood.”
He said the rescue mission took about two hours.
Smith said he rescued about 60 people during and in the immediate aftermath of Dorian. He was also able to rescue his friend’s family on September 3.
Asked if he thought he would die, Smith said, “Yeah, at every part of it because at no point did the storm let up. I mean, both days were in the heart of the storm…Heavy rain, heavy wind, it never let up. At some points, it felt like small rocks were just being thrown at you very hard. It stung riding 40 or 50 miles per hour in those conditions.”
Smith said vivid memories of the horror of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 inspired him to save as many lives as he could during Dorian.
“I was in college in Houston when they had floods and I watched Katrina and what happened to people that were trapped in their roof spaces,” he said.
“So, that and the fact that I have young kids and I know that the Sweetings have young kids – that’s kind of what really motivated me… I just didn’t want to wake up the next day and hear bad news if I was in a position to help.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice