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Outrage spread in the Keys when Dorian relief supplies were stolen. Except they weren’t.

A trailer that held relief supplies Florida Keys Rotary Club members collected for Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas sits in a Winn-Dixie parking lot in Tavernier.
A trailer that held relief supplies Florida Keys Rotary Club members collected for Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas sits in a Winn-Dixie parking lot in Tavernier.

Outrage spread quickly on social media in South Florida late Thursday morning after a Facebook post reported a thief in a pickup truck had emptied a trailer parked at a Florida Keys grocery store that was filled with relief supplies destined for the Bahamas.

The story spread so quickly that a Miami television news station picked it up. But it turns out the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

Volunteers with the Upper Keys Rotary Club were in a Winn-Dixie parking lot Thursday morning collecting items when they saw someone in a pickup pull up and raid the trailer.

This was around 11 a.m. at the Winn-Dixie in Tavernier. The silver lining, according to volunteer Shylon Martin, was that other volunteers had just picked up most of the items collected the day before. But there were still several cases of water inside.

Volunteers heading to the trailer to put recently donated items inside said they saw a silver Ford F-150 pickup truck pull alongside it. They say the driver make several trips to and from his vehicle. In all, he took six cases of bottled water.

For Rotarians manning the collection point, the type of items taken wasn’t the point. Rather, they found it disturbing that someone would steal donations meant to help those in need.

But the trailer was not burglarized, Adam Linhardt, sheriff’s office spokesman, said. As deputies began their investigation, including reviewing security camera footage from Winn-Dixie showing a man load the water into his pickup, cops who are also Rotary members began making calls.

Turns out, the man in the truck was also a Rotarian and picked up the water to take it to a collection point in the Keys without letting the volunteers at Winn-Dixie know.

“It was a misunderstanding, Linhardt said.

Martin, who posted the original information about the items being taken, later posted on Facebook that the Rotary Club did not know the man picked up the water.

“We sincerely apologize,” Martin wrote. “It warms my heart to have faith restored in our community.”

Parts of the Bahamas were devastated by Hurricane Dorian this week as it hovered over the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama for days as a Category 5 storm.

The death toll so far is 20 people, but that is expected to climb as more relief workers arrive to bring in supplies, evacuate the sick and injured and restore infrastructure.

The original story incorrectly identified the source of the Facebook post about the missing hurricane relief items. Shylon Martin posted the information and the subsequent apology.

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David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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