Catholic Missionary Miraculously Survives Haiti Quake

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A Catholic missionary from Connecticut says it was a series of miracles that allowed him to survive 10 hours trapped in the rubble after the Haiti earthquake.

Chuck Dietsch, 66, became interested in volunteering for the Haitian Ministries about six years ago after listening to a guest speaker at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury. He and his wife, Dorne, 64, visited Haiti several times but this was the first time Chuck went as a ministry employee. He was hired as a business consultant to help a mission house in Port-au-Prince through a transition to a new director.

He had only been in Haiti seven days when the quake hit. Just as the walls and floors started shifting something made him run for the nearest doorway, pulling a colleague, mission director, Jillian Thorp, 24, along with him. The next jolt brought the whole house on top of them.

They suddenly found themselves trapped under six feet of rubble.  Deutsch’s legs were pinned under the debris and his left hand was crushed by a 2 x 4 that probably saved their lives because it miraculously created a small air pocket. His back was bent over a cinder block and he was in severe pain.

“The first two hours were fear, sadness because I believed I would probably never see my family again,” Deutsch told “There were feelings of hopelessness. When you’re immobile, six-feet under the ground with a thought that you’re just going to eventually go to sleep, its very frightening.”

They lay trapped in the rubble for about two hours before hearing voices outside. The two started yelling until someone heard and rescue efforts got underway.

For the next 10 hours, workers struggled to free them while dozens of aftershocks shook the rubble around them.

“I continuously kept saying to God, ‘God, please calm the earth,’ because of fear of collapse of the little room we were in,” Deutsch said.

The two of them prayed a lot during the ordeal, but never talked about death or dying.

However, at one point, sensing that the air was running out in their tiny cavern, he remembers saying to God: “I guess it’s time I go to sleep.” But something inside told him it wasn’t time. “I said ‘no, there’s still hope.’”

Minutes later, rescuers moved some debris and sent a rush of air flooding into the space where he and Thorpe were pinned. Two hours later, they were finally pulled out and laid on the ground outside the remains of the building.

“Its hard to express when you are just laying there on your back after that looking at the heavens and you can see all the stars. Unfortunately the sounds were horrific because death filled the night.”

His joy at being alive was filled with the sorrow of hearing the screams of people who were in the process of finding their loved ones dead in the rubble.

Deutsch suffered a broken eye socket and will need plastic surgery on his mangled hand. His colleague miraculously escaped with only cuts and bruises.

Deutsch was reunited with his wife in Connecticut on their 43rd wedding anniversary and says he’s anxious to go back to Haiti to help with relief efforts.

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