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LI victims, heroes emerge out of Haiti rubble

Andrew Grene of Hicksville, a UN peacekeeper, has

Andrew Grene of Hicksville, a UN peacekeeper, has been found dead in the earthquake's rubble, family members have said. Credit: Ed Betz

The impact of the earthquake in Haiti reverberated again Tuesday on Long Island. One family received devastating news, two local companies held out hope of a miracle for their workers caught in the catastrophe and a group of Nassau police officers await the call to go help distribute supplies.

Andrew Grene of Hicksville spent the last five years in Haiti as a high-level United Nations peacekeeper trying to stabilize the Caribbean nation.

>>PHOTOS: Newsday's Charles Eckert in Haiti | Frantic rescue effort in Haiti

Tuesday, his family was coping with the news that he had been found dead in the rubble of UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

UN officials in Haiti and New York called Grene's family late Monday to tell them his body had been recovered, his twin brother, Gregory Grene, said Tuesday.

Andrew Grene, 44, was believed to be attending a meeting with the head of the UN mission in Haiti, Hedi Annabi, when the building collapsed during last week's earthquake, Gregory Grene said. Andrew was a special assistant to Annabi, who was also killed.

Andrew Grene's wife, Jennifer, is an English teacher at Long Island Lutheran High School in Brookville. The couple have three children.

"We share our grief and sympathy with all those who have lost loved ones in the quake, both Andrew's colleagues and the people of Haiti, whom Andrew loved and for whom he gave his life," Grene's distraught family said in a statement. "And we express the hope that there may yet be miracles accorded to those who are still being sought."

Gregory Grene said the family had been holding out hope until the final moments that Andrew would be found alive.

"The UN really, really tried their best to find him," he said. "There's no complaints. There's just wondering and sorrow."

Ireland's minister for foreign affairs, Micheal Martin, also released a statement on Grene, who held dual citizenship in the United States and Ireland. Grene's father was an Irish citizen.

"He was a true humanitarian, working for the good of the people of Haiti," Martin said. "Andrew is part of a long and honorable Irish tradition of public service with the United Nations. His family, and indeed Ireland, can be very proud of his work. He was also a citizen of the United States, and I know that that country also takes pride in his achievements."

Mike Ryan had an airplane ticket to head to Haiti last Tuesday for a business trip but had to cancel at the last minute. One of his employees went ahead, along with three other men from a Long Island company that Ryan was hoping to partner with on a joint project in Haiti.

Now Ryan is hoping three of the men are found alive. The fourth is recovering in a Miami hospital. They had all arrived at the Hotel Montana about 4 p.m. The earthquake struck 45 minutes later, and the hotel collapsed.

"We are just hoping there is a chance that they are somewhere where there is water," said Ryan, president of the LandTek Group Inc., an Amityville-based company that builds athletic fields, including the one at Citi Field.

The missing men are Joe Guercia, 72, who owns Athletic Recreational Surfacing in Copiague; one of his employees, David Apperson, of Virginia; and one of Ryan's employees, Jim Birch, 50, of Salida, Calif. Birch has spent years living on and off Long Island for various jobs, Ryan said.

The rescued man is John Scarboro, who works for Guercia and also lives in Virginia.

Ryan said the group had traveled to Haiti to discuss with government officials a project to build between six and 10 schools with athletic fields.

He said his company has been in constant contact with the U.S. State Department and U.S. military officials for information about the missing men.

As Nassau police Officer Hill Karl-Otto watches the ghastly images of Port-au-Prince flashing across his television screen, he can see the city as it was in his mind's eye.

"I grew up there," he said Tuesday. "I can see what used to be there. It's overwhelming."

Karl-Otto, 39, a Baldwin father of three young children, is one of 10 Nassau police officers and detectives on standby to fly to Haiti to help with distribution of emergency supplies. They could leave as soon as Wednesday morning.

All of the team members have connections to Haiti, and at least two have lost family members, Karl-Otto said.

The officers will wear county police uniforms and will be armed, said Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone, a department spokesman.

Karl-Otto, who was raised in Port-au-Prince and moved to the United States when he was 18, said his brother, Spytz Karl-Otto, moved back to Haiti about two years ago to work for the United Nations after 14 years with the NYPD.

"He always wanted to go back to Haiti to serve," he said.

When the earthquake hit, his brother was walking up the front steps of his house in a hillside neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. The building collapsed.

"He barely made it out alive," Karl-Otto said.

With Jennifer Maloney

>>PHOTOS: Newsday's Charles Eckert in Haiti | Frantic rescue effort in Haiti | Deadliest recent earthquakes

>> LIVE: Twitter coverage of the scene in Haiti, from aid agencies, and reaction worldwide

>> VIDEOS: Latest videos from Haiti and on LI

>> MORE: Read more about LIers grieving and LI's efforts to help | Latest news from Haiti | Haiti's road to chaos: 2006 Newsday series



* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.

* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747. The Red Cross has also set up a Web site to help family members find and contact relatives.

* You can also go online to organizations such as the Red Cross and MercyCorps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

The FBI warned Internet users to be wary of e-mail messages seeking donations in the aftermath of the quake. People who want to send money or assistance should contribute to known organizations and should be careful not to respond to unsolicited e-mails, officials said.

Other Web sites accepting donations include:

-Haitian Health Foundation
-Hope for Haiti
-International Medical Corps
-Beyond Borders

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