Debra Donze lists everything they lost. But she said they may be planning a funeral.
Fairview Heights, Illinois. — When the opportunity came to acquire an established fishing company in Florida, where her son had worked for five years, Debra Downser said she and her husband joined.
But the timing proved disastrous.
Tang Ze said her husband is approaching retirement age. So he got the expected wildness and wanted to acquire the business.
“Then, the hurricane came,” she said.
Just days after everything was in place, Hurricane Ian struck their new home, new office and new business directly on September 4 as a Category 4 storm. 28.
“These are just some pictures of the neighbor’s house,” Tang Ze said, flipping through the damaged photos on his phone.
Donze has developed strong family ties with several family members in the area, including her mother, who also lives there.
Concerned about the family members, the Donzes jumped into their car and drove from their Fairview Heights home to Fort Myers Beach.
Debra said her son, Robbie Donze, first tried to ride the 65-foot Sea Trek boat in the upstream hurricane evacuation plan, but the boat was too high to pass under a lowered rail bridge Pass.
He weathered the storm on the boat, updating his family as much as possible.
“The pier disintegrated and he kind of went to sea,” she said. “It’s an absolute miracle that they finally crossed the highway through the mangroves safely.”
While taking stock of the damage after the storm, Debra Downser noticed everything they lost, including five family homes, five family cars and her father’s ashes.
But she was also quick to see the bright side, and said she told herself her family might be planning a funeral.
She said it was difficult for people to understand the damage without walking through the wreckage and seeing it for themselves.
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” she said. “People just lost everything.”
Now she says she hopes to use their charter boat for reconstruction and plans to get back on the water to help people.
They’re raising money to fix the boat and use it to help other Floridians get home with whatever possessions they can salvage.
To help Donze repair their boat, you can donate to their GoFundMe account.
To watch 5 On Your Side radio or coverage 24/7, 5 On Your Side is always streaming on 5+. Free download on Roku or Amazon Fire TV.