St. Charles deputy recounts last messages as hurricane devastates Puerto Rico

October 11 at 6:16 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

St. Charles deputy recounts last messages as hurricane devastates Puerto Rico
As Hurricane Maria's 175 mile-an-hour winds ripped through Puerto Rico, Renee Kinler was communicating with her friends who had taken shelter in Yobocoa and were telling her they were afraid. Then the texts stopped.

The last message came at 8:42 p.m. Sept. 19.

“All she told me was she was in a building in a town, and she didn’t know where it was but that it was a town called Yobocoa,” Kinler said. “It’s the town that took the brunt of the storm. She was messaging me that she was in a room with a 100-year-old woman who was crying. She told me she was afraid and then I lost contact with her.”

As of today, it’s still the last message Kinler has received from Olga Bugos.

Kinler has since received news from Bugos’ brother that the two survived one of the most powerful storms on record in the Atlantic, but they’ve lost everything.

Puerto Ricans are left to deal with a devastated island where electricity is expected to be down for months, as well as dealing with water and food shortages.

Kinler said she is eager to reconnect with Bugos to know if they are safe.

In the meantime, she is sending her texts to let her know she is there for her until her service returns.

“That girl has really impacted me,” she said.

It was about a year ago when Kinler, a motor officer with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, rode in the Peace Unity Tour. She rode in honor of Bugos’ father, a narcotics officer killed a year ago in the line of duty in a drug gang war in Puerto Rico. This was her ninth year in the tour and, as with past rides, she set out to know the fallen officer’s family and found Bugos.

“It’s an amazing relationship just over Facebook,” Kinler said. “We’ve really kind of bonded with each other. Her father was a fellow officer and I would do anything for them.”

When Bugos couldn’t afford to go with Kinler to Washington, D.C., to see her father’s name on the National Peace Officers memorial, Kinler sent her a photograph of it. The benefit police ride raises money for the memorial.

Since that time, Kinler said she and Bugos have remained close, and now she watched helplessly as one of the Atlantic’s most powerful storms headed straight for Puerto Rico.

Kinler said she was really scared for them, particularly with memories of her survival in Hurricane Katrina.

“I can relate to the fear they must have been feeling,” she said.

For her, it was 4:12 a.m. Aug. 29 when the massive storm hit Southeast Louisiana.

“I remember that sound and feeling that I felt so I could only imagine what she felt with no resources like we have,” Kinler said. “When the phone and power went down, you just lost all contact, and I was hoping she wouldn’t feel the way I did, but I knew better.”

The worst part of the silence is not knowing if they have enough food and water or even a place to sleep.

As of now, she continues texting her messages like “Thinking of you” and “Hope you’re safe” in hopes of getting news.

View other articles written Anna Thibodeaux

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