Thursday, November 18, 2010
Help Me Howard: Helping Norma
A lot of us call Help Me Howard when we need help, but recently one woman needed an extraordinary, expensive amount of help, $50,000 worth to be exact. Our story aired and then we got a call, that help was on the way. Now, here is tonight's special edition of Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When we first met Norma and her daughter they were desperate.
A man had abandoned a 65 foot boat at her dock two years ago, it sank and oil leaked out. The state sent Norma a $12,000 bill for cleaning up the mess. Pompano Beach brought her into court telling her she had to get rid of the boat.
Norma pleaded with Help Me Howard, find a way to help.
Norma Petrone: "I would like somebody to come and take it away and get rid of the headache."
Normas story aired. Towboat U.S. of Fort Lauderdale stepped forward.
Barney Hauf, Towboat US: "When we saw the original Help Me Howard we started to get to work to figure out a way to help out."
And Towboat U.S. brought out their salvage crew. Divers went down to patch some holes and discovered the boat had sunk deep into the mud. Then, they started pumping water of out the vessel very slowly and very carefully.
Larry Acheson, Pres. Towboat US: "The water on the outside stays the same, so we are afraid as we reduce the water on the inside the boat could implode and it didn't fortunately."
The reason for the concern, microscopic worms had eaten into the wooden vessel rotting it .
Norma was told everything. She waited inside making sandwiches and holding her breathe.
Norma Petrone: "Oh I am so glad you can't believe. You wouldn't understand how happy I am. This has been here for so long."
After a couple of hours, the once gorgeous boat now a piece of junk, came off the bottom and floated once again.
Sheila Goldberg sat in her backyard to watch it. She was the person who sent us this picture and first told us about Norma and the neighborhood's nightmare.
Sheila Goldberg, Happy Neighbor: "It's Christmas. It's my Christmas gift, actually it's Norma's Christmas gift. It's more about her, so I know she has had a tough time looking at it."
Towboat U.S. ate the sandwiches Norma had made, then Laryry Acheson's crew got ready to see if the old vessel, filled with worm rot would hold together.
Larry Acheson: "We will tow it around to another property, where another resident has been kind enough to donate a crane on the site, and hopefully pick it straight up disassemble it on the ground and put it in containers."
With Norma and Sheila on the dock they pulled it away.
Sheila hugging Norma: "I am so happy for you, honest to God I am."
And Towboat U.S. was happy. Neighbors snapped pictures. BSO came along to watch a boat that had given them so many headaches, and the old girl held together. Down a canal, a right turn and then pulled up to a lot where Warren Fronte had his crane to try to pick up the vessel.
Patrick Fraser: "How much would a salvage job like this cost? About $40,000 or $50,000. Norma only had to pay $5,000 to cover government fees, the rest, it's all donated. It's free."
Larry Acheson: "Well it's our way of giving back to the community. There is not any money in it for us, but the neighbors have had problems with it, so it's nice to be able to contribute a little bit and say we are here to help."
Straps were placed under the vessel. Warren's computer told him the boat weighed 74 tons. He lifted it, a little water drained lowering it to 69 tons. The wooden hull didn't hold together.
Warren Fronte, Fronte Crane Service: "In the process of picking the vessel it started cracking apart. The wood is just flat out rotten."
But, the next morning they were back with plan B. They placed a steel cable under the boat to try and cut it in half, but the boat was tougher, the cable snapped after getting a third of the way through the 65 footer.
But, that was enough, J and J Towing brought in some demolition equipment. They broke the boat in half, then lifted up the front of the boat. Rush Roll-Off had donated dumpsters to throw the boat into.
First a snapshot for the photo album, then the back end of the once fancy yacht came out of the water. The salvage operation was done. That fellow from Help Me Howard came out to say thanks.
Barney is being humble. Towboat U.S. would have made tens of thousands of dollars for a job like this. Along with several other companies that gave their time and made an 81-year-old woman and a lot of her neighbors very very happy.