Hady Quan
Hady Quan

There is no simple way of describing Hady, because he is many things to many people. He is my brother, and one couldn’t ask for a brother more loyal and loving than Hady. He is definitely a charmer, always an easy-going and happy-go-lucky personality. His aura is one of confidence, optimism, and positive energy, and it is contagious to anyone who comes in contact with him. He is a special breed, one of those persons who commands our attention when he enters the room simply by the way he carries himself; yet, we are all humbled by his generosity, and his genuine and authentic nature. Hady manages to make us feel better, about ourselves and about our futures. We want to improve ourselves after time spent with him, partly because of his own example of unending self-improvement, partly because of his excellent advice, but mostly because he could make us believe in achieving the impossible.

Make no mistake, it is never just for show, it isn’t pretend, and he is not about blowing hot air. As a task-oriented, goal-seeking entrepreneur, he is meticulous and mathematical, a logistical mastermind of unparalleled skill. Hady is practical and focused on outcomes, always staying one step ahead of everyone else in the game. He always has the bigger picture in mind, a master plan. He knows how to set a goal and reach it in record time, and he doesn’t take “no” for an answer. In his 30 years so far, Hady has accomplished more than most of us would dream of in a 100 years.

Life was his.

December 28, 2007 – Hady was vacationing in the Dominican Republic at the Excellence Resort and Spa Punta Cana with his beloved Tiffany. Hady and Tiffany were accompanied by Arkadiusz (Ark), one of Hady’s closest friends and business partners, and Komal, Ark’s fiancé. The purpose of the trip was to celebrate the recent success of one of Hady’s businesses. The four were planning on ringing in the New Year in style and luxury at the all-inclusive five-star resort.

It was the first day for Hady and his party after arriving late the previous night. Like any guest at a resort situated on a beautiful beach, they wanted to spend time in the sun and in the water. As such, they all headed out to the beach that afternoon with the intention of soaking up some rays and going for a dip in the water, much like many of the other guests at the resort of course. The waves rolled in majestically and were very enticing, attracting many resort guests including Hady’s group. After some time spent in the ocean Ark and Komal decided to return to their room to freshen up before their dinner plans. Hady and Tiffany chose to stay on the beach.

At approximately 3:30 in the afternoon, while Hady and Tiffany were swimming in the water, they were alerted to a man not very far from where they were swimming. This man, James McDonald, was calling out for help. He was not able to handle the currents and was drowning. Hady and Tiffany were confused because he was so close to them and yet they were not having any difficulties with the currents. Once they realized that it was no joke Hady sent Tiffany to go and get help while he swam over to see if he could save Mr. McDonald. What happened in the following minutes, and then hours, was tragic.

Tiffany found it very difficult to swim back to shore against the current. Once she reached shore she screamed for help and scrambled to try and find any help from resort staff. There was nobody to offer help. It seemed as though nobody could even comprehend that there was an emergency. She ran back into the resort to alert someone and when she came back to shore she found a crowd of people gathered near the water. Hady was nowhere to be seen. James McDonald was brought to shore by a couple men who had gone into the water to help. The attempt to revive Mr. McDonald was unsuccessful, and he was carried by stretcher into the resort.

In the meantime Ark and Komal had been alerted to the emergency and when they arrived on scene Ark was trying to get information from resort staff on the beach about what had happened. The resort General Manager, Gonzalo Fernandez, was on scene and his response to Ark’s questions were entirely unprofessional, inappropriate, insensitive, and above all useless in an emergency situation. Thinking that Ark was a friend of Mr. McDonald, Fernandez had the nerve to say to Ark that Mr. McDonald was stupid for swimming in the water, and that staff had told him not to be in the water. Fernandez had challenged Ark to run the search and rescue operation in a defensive manner, thinking that Ark was trying to confront him on what he was doing. When Fernandez realized that Ark was Hady’s friend, he changed his tune, and was no longer so confrontational. He was, however, still virtually useless.

From that point forward Ark took the lead and with Tiffany and Komal they tried desperately to get boats, helicopters, divers, anything and anyone who could help to find Hady. Some of the first calls were made to the Canadian Embassy, who had assured Ark that the Dominican Navy would be deploying boats, helicopters, and divers in the search. They never did. Ark also called the US Coast Guard, who eventually sent a helicopter in the morning to run a search for about three hours. In the meantime Ark, Tiffany, and Komal tried desperately to engage the resort in their search on the ground using ATVs. They were initially told that the ATVs that sitting on the beach were unavailable, and that they would have to walk the beach instead. It was only after intense and repeated demands that they were allowed to use one, which they did all night that first night. Almost all of their efforts were met like this, with obstacles, indifference, hesitance, and a lack of understanding for the dire need of the emergency that they were in. Common sense will tell anyone who understands this situation that the first moments are absolutely critical, and how the emergency response plan is carried out is pivotal in the success of the effort. Here at the Excellence Resort Punta Cana, all-inclusive does not mean inclusive of safety or emergency assistance. To make it clear to anyone trying to understand this, here are a list of things that the resort did not have in order to respond to this situation: lifeguards, binoculars, jet-skis, boats, life preservers, emergency contacts, trained staff of any kind, life jackets, or boogie boards. Anything that they did have was scarce and barely operational, like the AED that was used on Mr. McDonald.

Over the course of the next day, and then the next two weeks, Tiffany, Ark, Komal, and subsequently myself, my brother Henry, my sister Shirley, and four other friends of Tiffany and Hady, Gabriela, Albert, J.P., and Mark, all tried to marshal enough resources and assistance to properly execute a search and rescue operation for Hady. We engaged anyone and everyone who might have been able to help, including the US Coast Guard, the Canadian Embassy, the Dominican government, neighboring countries, fisherman, boat owners and charters, divers from all over the Dominican Republic, helicopter charter companies, influential people in the resort industry, politicians in Canada, the media in Canada as well as the Dominican Republic, international search and rescue organizations, other resort guests, and of course friends and family. This list is not complete and there are many who tried to help or who were contacted. It is important to note, however, that the bulk of this list was not very helpful in the crucial hours following Hady’s disappearance, other than the US Coast Guard, one of the helicopter pilots chartered from Puerto Rico who is a fellow Canadian, and of course family and friends back home. It is also important to state that had we not been able to fund these efforts ourselves from Canada, the search would have ended after the first day with the US Coast Guard helicopter search. Anyone of any official authority, like the Canadian Embassy, the Dominican government, the Dominican Navy, military, Air Force, and Tourist Police, were all slow moving and ineffective, spending more time with activity rather than productivity. There was hardly anyone else who would help without first ensuring their payout. In fact, once the word got out that there was a tremendous amount of money being spent on the search effort and that there was a reward for finding Hady, we found there to be far more assistance. As the search wore on though, we eventually found that we had to remind people “helping” that this was still a very serious operation and not just a paycheck to be collected for a ride in a helicopter. It should also be said that we did eventually receive help from staff at the resort, perhaps when they realized that we wouldn’t go away quietly. Much of it was too little too late, but there are certain individuals who certainly gave their services wholeheartedly to us. They deserve mention because though they may officially represent the resort, we know that their strong efforts came from their hearts.

Our whole time spent there was a blur for many of us. It was filled with resentment, anger, dreadful sorrow, extreme mental and physical fatigue, moments of hope, countless tears, excruciating decisions to make, and hours spent in helicopters and on beaches along the coastlines. We also prayed, a lot. I am leaving out a lot of the painful details of the day-to-day events, but I can assure everyone that we chased down every possible lead and tried to flush out every possible option in our search for Hady. We covered well over 10,000 square kilometers of land and sea, and most of that area we scoured several times, just to be sure. I have no doubt that the Dominican Republic has never seen a search and rescue operation as prolonged and extensive for one person. One week after Hady disappeared we also gathered on the beach where he was last seen and held a moment of remembrance for him. Some of the resort staff and management gathered with us. A few people spoke and tried to find the words for the occasion, but mostly we were silent as we gazed out helplessly at the ocean. Unfortunately, despite all of our best efforts, we didn’t find Hady. The last of us left the Dominican Republic on January 10, 2008.

There are practical life-saving lessons to be learned from our story and I feel the need to make them clear here. If you are traveling to the Dominican Republic don’t get yourself into any sort of emergency situation because there won’t be anyone coming to your rescue. I would guess that this is the case throughout the Caribbean, or at least anywhere there are resorts owned by people who are concerned only with profit and not with the safety of their guests. Spend your vacation dollars wisely and go to places where they value human life.

For myself, I can say that this experience was in many ways the worst two weeks of my life. It really was a nightmare come true, and I can’t sufficiently convey to anyone the heartache and frustration that I went through, and continue to experience. At the same time, upon reflection I would like to say that the love and support and sheer volume of reactions created in response to the effort to find Hady has been amazing. It is a testament to the kind of person Hady is. I have also been happy to share in the stories of Hady with his friends and with Tiffany, stories that help me to understand and appreciate him even more.

Hady has always been a bit of a mysterious and fascinating character. He prefers to be incognito and perform acts of kindness without being detected. No one person really knows all that there is to know about Hady. I believe that he preferred it that way. Hady also demonstrates a great control and mastery over his life, a self-made man of destiny I would say. When we think about how he left us, as agonizing and heart-wrenching as it is for us, the story contains familiar components: he slipped out on us mysteriously, without a trace, in a beautiful paradise at a luxury resort, and he was last seen communing with nature. He left his family and friends enough to thrive. He also left us with exactly what we needed to become stronger and better people. Perhaps he always knew that his time would be short. Perhaps he has showed us yet again that he is better than all of us at this. I believe that some of us may find some peace knowing that he had the last laugh.

Ultimately, I expect to see him again, and hopefully soon, but until then I will carry with me his great spirit. He is and has always been an inspiration to me. We should all be humbled by his example. He is a model of humility, generosity, how we should treat each other, and how to live life to the absolute fullest. I’m sure he will be pleased to know that he has achieved immortality, through the legacy of the lasting impact he has had on all of us. I’m sure that everyone who had the fortune of being touched by him in some way will agree with me when I say that Hady is a true hero. We love you and we miss you, Hady. You will not be forgotten.