Ecuadorean Navy rescues Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos
By Dialogo January 14, 2014
The Ecuadorian Navy and Coast Guard officials rescued billionaire businessman and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos from a medical emergency in the Galapagos Islands on New Year’s Day.
Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, was on vacation near Santa Cruz Island, in the Galapagos archipelago, about 600 miles west of continental Ecuador when he suffered a kidney stone attack. The ship took Bezos to nearby Santa Cruz Island.
A Navy pilot landed a Bell 430 helicopter landed on the island and transported Bezos to nearby Baltra Island, where the businessman boarded a private jet, which took him to the United States for medical treatment.
Five stars for the Galapagos
Bezos had a “good outcome” from the kidney stone attack and no surgery was required, an Amazon.com spokesman said, according to published reports. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index recently ranked Bezos, 49, as the world’s 13th wealthiest person, with a net worth of $36 billion.
Through an Amazon.com spokesman, Bezos released a brief statement: “Galapagos: five stars. Kidney stones: zero stars.” The “stars” are a reference was to Amazon.com’s system of customer ratings for products sold by the on-line retailing giant. Five stars is the highest rating for products sold on Amazon.
Quick action by the Navy
Ecuadorian Navy Captain Daniel Ginez Villacis, regional director of Ecuador’s Coast Guard command in the Galapagos, ordered the Navy helicopter air evacuation after Bezos sought medical treatment on Santa Cruz Island.
Members of the Bezos family and some of his business associates sent messages of thanks to the Ecuadorean Navy and Coast Guard for their “timely action” and “professionalism, Ginez said, according to published reports.
Medical air evacuations are routine in the remote Galapagos Islands region, according to Navy and Coast Guard officials. About 25,000 people live in the Galapagos Island province. In addition to the permanent residents, tens of thousands of tourists visit the region annually to see the natural beauty and unusual wildlife on the Galapagos Islands.
Another rescue by the Navy
A few hours before the Navy rescued Bezos, a Navy pilot used the same Bell 430 helicopter to rescue a woman who had gone into premature labor on Isabela Island, according to the Coast Guard’s website. On Jan. 4, 2014, the Bell 430 was called in to evacuate a man on San Cristobal Island who was suffering from acute appendicitis, the website reported.
The Bell 430 is a twin-engine, single main rotor utility helicopter that can carry up to eight passengers or two emergency medical stretchers and attending medical personnel. The Ecuadorian Navy has two Bell 430s as well as one Bell 230, three Bell 206 Jet Rangers and three Bell TH-57 Sea Rangers. The Navy also has a force of 14 fixed wing patrol and training aircraft as well as six unmanned aerial vehicles for patrol and surveillance.
Safeguarding human life
The fact that Bezos is a wealthy businessman made no difference to the Navy, which protects the lives of people no matter their station in life, said Carlos Mendoza Mora, the director of Strategic Projects Consulting, a private security firm in Mexico City.
“All human lives are important,” Mendoza Mora said. “All state capacities have to be applied in appropriate scale. When civil or police forces that protect the different levels of government security and integrity of the people do not have the opportunity to meet this emergency, then you have to climb to the next level and often in certain territories that means reliance on the Armed Forces. Therefore, there must be no restrictions on the state to use these resources.”
“It is natural that the Ecuadorean Navy would provide help to Bezos, the Navy is responsible for covering the territorial waters, not civilian forces,” the security analyst said.
Providing maritime defense and fighting drug traffickers
The Ecuadorian Navy has an active duty force of more than 7,000 personnel and operates 21 vessels, including two guided missile frigates, two diesel-electric submarines, and three fast-attack boats. The Coast Guard, which operates under the command of the Navy, has 250 personnel and 30 patrol boats.
Although the Navy’s primary mission is maritime defense, in recent years the Navy and the Coast Guard have played an important role in fighting drug trafficking. Ecuador is not a major cocaine producing country but it has increasingly been used as a transshipment point for illegal drugs. Recent maritime seizures of drugs include:
• In October 2013, the Ecuadorian Navy and police forces collaborated to seize 799 kilos of cocaine in the country’s territorial waters, drugs which were destined for Central America and ultimately north to the United States, authorities reported. .
• In April 2013, Ecuadorean police alerted the Coast Guard that a yacht, the “Green Onion,” was transporting a large quantity of cocaine. The coast guard pursued the boat, which escaped into international waters. The Ecuadorian Navy alerted the U.S. Coast Guard, which captured the boat in waters near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. When they realized they were about to be captured, the crew burned about four tons of cocaine.
Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article.