Renel Noel lost his life doing what he loved the most- attempting to make his native country, Haiti, a better place.
The Miami Herald reported that the 69-year-old humanitarian drowned after his 42-foot boat capsized on June 7. Noel had planned to take the water vessel from Miami to Haiti. He was going to the Caribbean-island nation to embark on a new business venture– a water taxi business. He bought the boat in order to safely transport his fellow Haitians from Cap-Haitien to La Pointe (his hometown) by water.
On that fateful Tuesday morning, Noel and Anounce Jean took down the Miami River when the engine started smoking. The boat quickly began to sink, and it was too late for Noel and Jean to save the embattled barge. The two men grabbed life jackets, after other life-saving tools became inaccessible. They held on to gasoline barrels to not be taken under by the current.
“I told him, ‘The water is so strong, I will lose you and you will lose me,’” Jean told the Herald.
The friends had been following Azoual Lubin’s cargo ship, El Shaddai, when their boat sank. He thought Noel returned home after he had tried to convince him not to take the three-day trek across the sea.
“I wasn’t worried at all because it was good weather,” Lubin said. “And if anything was wrong, I believed he would have called us.”
Stuck in the dark waters, Noel and Jean were forced to swim once the boat sank.
“The Coast Guard passed by us three times, but they couldn’t see us,” Jean said. “We put our hands up, and the waves pushed us away.”
Jean recounted releasing Noel’s body in the ocean after realizing that his comrade had passed away. He was later rescued by a family on a yacht.
The Herald reported that the U.S. Coast Guard recovered Noel’s body on June 8 near Port St. Lucie, roughly 100 miles up shore. Ironically, the beloved man had a relationship with the Coast Guard Auxiliary for over 20 years.
The proud Haitian man launched his charity, Friends of Humanity, in 2012. He sent supplies, food and other humanitarian items to the impoverished nation he cherished. Noel came to the United States in 1974 but always managed to find his way back home. His funeral service was live-streamed via Youtube.
His nephew, Henry Noel, wrote a touching tribute to his deceased uncle, describing him as a “legend.”
“The Man… The Myth… The Legend…
His family and the Haitian community lost a gem. Our prayers go out to his family.