Amazon founder airlifted out from Galapagos Islands

Reuters, CHICAGO and QUITO

Mon, Jan 06, 2014 - Page 7

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos was airlifted from a cruise ship by the Ecuadorean Navy after suffering a kidney stone attack in the Galapagos Islands on New Year’s Day.

“Galapagos: five stars. Kidney stones: zero stars,” Bezos said in an e-mail provided by Amazon.

Ecuador’s navy said Bezos was aboard a ship traveling between the islands of Floreana and Santa Cruz, both famed for their wildlife, when the attack struck in the mid-afternoon.

A navy helicopter met the ship at Santa Cruz and flew him about 32km to his private jet on the nearby island of Baltra.

From there, Bezos was flown to the US for “emergency surgery,” the navy said in a statement.

“He had to be attended to in the shortest possible time,” the statement said.

The Galapagos islands lie about 965km west off the Ecuadorean coast.

Juan Carlos Ibarra, a lieutenant with the navy’s air force, was the helicopter pilot who flew the airlift.

“They informed us when the ship was arriving in Academy Bay at Santa Cruz island,” Ibarra said by telephone.

“We landed our helicopter on a football pitch there ... they told us that a doctor had already gone in boat to treat him onboard the yacht... They stabilized him and took him to the United States. He was conscious, but he was on a drip,” Ibarra said.

The navy said in its statement that Ibarra, as well as the helicopter copilot and flight engineer, had received messages of thanks from relatives and associates of Bezos, whom it described as “such a prestigious, world famous businessman.”

Galapagos National Park draws many wealthy and famous visitors among the about 180,000 tourists who visit every year to gape at the archipelago’s rich, but fragile biodiversity.

Bezos, 49, is the 19th richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine, with a fortune of US$25 billion.