San Diego drone pilot home safe after Hurricane Irma volunteer work

Posted at 11:19 PM, Sep 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 02:26:55-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- As Hurricane Maria barrels past Puerto Rico and toward the Dominican Republic, one San Diegan is finally home from a different storm. 
RELATED: Hurricane Maria Is The Strongest Storm To Hit Puerto Rico In Decades 

Wednesday night, Anchor Brian Shlonsky sat down with Drew Goodwin, a drone pilot from San Diego who flew to the Carribean after Hurricane Irma hit. 

Goodwin was there as a volunteer drone pilot, surveying the damage. He made a daring escape from the islands just before Hurricane Maria hit. 

“The drones did give us some situational awareness and visual perspective on things that people hadn’t seen," Goodwin said. 

Goodwin is the director of Emergency Response Drones. The father and Scripps Ranch resident was on a plane — to San Juan last week. 10News was there as he packed up before his flight. 

RELATED: San Diego drone pilot flies to the Caribbean to help with Hurricane Irma recovery

When he got there, he linked up with a search and rescue group, using his drones to help do damage assessments in the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma. 

With his drone, he was able to make sure houses were clear and check blocked roadways. 

One area surveyed by the drone - marina where hundreds of boats were docked. Only four survived Hurricane Irma. 

With no cell service, communication was difficult. But as Goodwin met with locals on Tortola he realized another hurricane was on the way.   

"Some people didn’t even know that there was another hurricane coming," he said. "We stopped talking about delivering aid, and now we have to start talking again about bunkering down for another storm.”

Goodwin had to get out. 

He ended up escaping to San Juan on a small dingy. From there, he caught a flight back to the states before the second Hurricane Maria made landfall.

What stuck with Goodwin was the resolve of the island people.

"We’re going to get through it, we’re going to rebuild," he said. "It’s the island mentality, we can do it, and that we’re going to do it together.”