66°F
weather icon Clear

Coronavirus pandemic strands Henderson couple on Galapagos Islands

Updated March 21, 2020 - 5:42 pm

A Henderson couple hope they soon will be on their way back home after being stranded on the Galapagos Islands when the Ecuadorian government closed borders and airports in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Robb Hillman, a nurse at Henderson Hospital, and his husband, David McMullin, were able to board a plane, Saturday morning, back to the Ecuadorian capital, Quito. There they hope to take another plane bound for Houston on Sunday. However, they are not sure whether they will have to be quarantined in Ecuador or Houston or whether the flight back to the U.S. exists, Hillman, 47, reported via Facebook Messenger.

They are receiving conflicting information as officials have told them the flight will not occur, however Hillman’s mother was told by the airline company the trip is confirmed, he said.

“So we are unsure what will happen tomorrow,” Hillman reported Saturday evening.

Finding lodging was challenging. The two arrived at a hostel in Quito just before the 7 p.m. curfew.

Finding food was even harder.

“The manager here is trying so hard to find us something to eat, there are seven of us, but it’s looking grim,” he reported. “Dinner might be a small bag of Doritos and a chocolate bar from the vending machine. Lol. But at least we are here!”

The Galapagos Islands, which were made famous by Charles Darwin as the site where he did research for his Origin of Man theory and are known for their marine life, are a destination for thousands of Americans every year. The islands are part of Ecuador, which closed its borders because of concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

On Saturday morning, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health reported 506 people in the country had tested positive for COVID-19. Hours later, that number jumped to 532. Seven have died.

The problem is that neither the cities of Guayaquil nor Quito would allow an earlier flight from the Galapagos to land, Hillman wrote Friday night while the two were stranded on the Galapagos Islands. Hillman took a sabbatical to travel for a year.

The couple flew to the Galapagos on March 14, just before Ecuador closed its borders. Hillman estimated that there were about two dozen fellow Americans stuck on the island with him and McMullin.

The couple have been in Ecuador for about three months and thought about cutting their stay short to fly back home, but they read news that U.S. airports were packed. In the articles at the time, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Americans not to rush home, he said.

“We thought we had time to come back after it calmed down a little,” Hillman said. On top of that, Ecuador at the time had only about a dozen cases.

“We just didn’t want to get stuck in those big crowds of people waiting for health checks in the airport. That’s a nightmare scenario for a nurse,” he wrote. “We thought we’d have a week on the islands (where there is no virus) and then come home safely with fewer people around.”

Hillman’s mother contacted Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and a staffer left a voicemail saying the office would try to help.

Sitting and waiting was stressful on the Henderson couple. On the island, they had little phone connection and could not answer calls.

During their stay at the hotel in the Galapagos, employees fumigated it for COVID-19, Hillman wrote. Crews took a spray nozzle and hosed down the entire hotel.

“They got us outside but when we came back to the room everything was wet, except for the top of the bed. The floors, the walls, the furniture, even the TV was dripping wet,” he wrote. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Hillman commended hotel and airline staffers and the government for being helpful and friendly throughout the stressful time.

“It’s been a mess but they made it happen,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, multiple outlets reported that the mayor of Guayaquil had stopped a plane from Madrid from landing by sending trucks and cars to sit on the runway.

Contact Alex Chhith at achhith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0290. Follow @alexchhith on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Meals on Wheels waiting list skyrockets - VIDEO
Media and community relations director Leslie Carmine discusses changes regarding Meals on Wheels, at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The waiting list for the meals that are delivered directly to homebound seniors in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas has grown up to 2,400. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson center opens food bank to public - VIDEO
Visitors to the St. Therese Center HIV Outreach drive-thru food pantry talk about the impact of food banks for their families and friends. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cars line up for over 4 miles for food
Cars were lined up along Sahara Avenue from Palace Station to South Rainbow Boulevard for food distribution sponsored by Three Square and Central Church in Henderson.
Two large fires hit parts of the Las Vegas Valley - VIDEO
Renee Summerour wraps up the two large fire that hit part of the Las Vegas Valley Late Wednesday , early morning Thursday. RJ reporter Glenn Puit was at both scenes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas hotels light up their windows to show support during shutdown - VIDEO
Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip lit up their windows with hearts and messages to show support during the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday night, April 1. (Le'Andre Fox and James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Isolation and quarantine center for homeless at Cashman Center - VIDEO
A new isolation and quarantine center for homeless is under construction at the Cashman Center in downtown Las Vegas, March 31. (K.M Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Day care changes hours and takes extra steps to help guardians - VIDEO
Sarah Washington, whose children attend Discovery Gardens Childcare, shares the importance of the facility’s hour changes, and child care director Ariella Thomas discusses some other changes Discovery Gardens Childcare has made, in Las Vegas on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Elipagephoto
Costco reduces hours at Las Vegas Valley stores, gasoline pumps - VIDEO
Costco announced it will reduce hours at its stores and gas pumps starting Monday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police investigate apparent murder-suicide
Las Vegas police investigate an apparent murder-suicide in the 3900 block of Chasing Heart Way on Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Homeless outreach organization feeds people in age of social distancing - VIDEO
Homeless outreach organization Food Not Bombs handed out sack lunches, hygiene kits and blankets on Foremaster Lane in Las Vegas, Thursday, March 26, 2020. Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, which has temporarily closed its dining room and emergency night shelter, also handed out to-go lunches on Foremaster Lane. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada gets an A for social distancing
In an interactive Scoreboard by tech company Unacast, organizations can measure and understand the efficacy of social distancing. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada construction continues as coronavirus spreads
When Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered Nevada businesses closed, he let construction workers stay on the job, deeming homebuilding and other construction “essential” lines of work.
Pedestrian struck, killed in western Las Vegas Valley crash - VIDEO
Las Vegas police are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed in a crash Wednesday night in the west valley. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police investigate fatal crash in east Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police said a pedestrian was killed when they were hit by a vehicle near Sloan Lane and of East Charleston Boulevard on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seeing teachers at a distance, closed parks and lack of toilet paper - VIDEO
The neighboring towns of Logandale and Overton, northeast of Las Vegas, are experiencing the effects of coronavirus, with closed schools and playgrounds and fewer items in grocery stores. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas residents enjoy the snow at Lee Canyon - VIDEO
Las Vegas residents get out to enjoy the snow at Lee Canyon on Mount Charleston. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Post office stays open amidst shutdown - VIDEO
Mail delivery and services at post offices continues despite the coronavirus crisis. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 person dies in east Las Vegas fire - VIDEO
One person and a dog were found dead after a fire in a detached structure adjacent to a house near East Monroe Avenue and North Betty Lane in east Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Albertsons, Walmart, Amazon increase pay amid coronavirus impact - VIDEO
Grocery stores and other retailers have raised employee pay as they work to meet customer demand during the coronavirus pandemic. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
High winds move clouds across the Las Vegas Valley - Time-lapse video
Isolated showers depart when gusty winds move in probably remain through Wednesday, March 25, when another storm front is expected. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown's Pabst Blue Ribbon neon sign moving to Neon Museum - VIDEO
Yesco workers remove the Pabst Blue Ribbon neon sign at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard on Monday, March 23, 2020. The sign, which has been at the location for five years, will be displayed at the Neon Museum. A museum representative said a replacement neon sign is in the works. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Distance Learning challenges for Clark County School District - VIDEO
Renee Summerour sits down with RJ reporter Aleksandra Appleton to discuss the challenges the Clark County School District is facing with Distance Learning, a program that was slated to begin Monday, March 23. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Deliver with Dignity will give 100 families meals today - VIDEO
“Deliver with Dignity” was created “to bring high-quality meals directly to the most vulnerable families in the Las Vegas Valley, keeping them and the community safe by reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19.” (Facebook/Clark County)
CCSD board holds an emergency meeting on Distance Learning - VIDEO
The Clark County School Board held an emergency meeting on Monday morning, the day that distance learning was supposed to begin at all schools in Nevada. (Clark County School District)
Las Vegas Valley residents make medical masks for health care workers - VIDEO
Anissa Gustafson has spent most of her week sewing masks in an effort to assist health care workers in the Las Vegas Valley who are running out because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coronavirus patients could inundate hospitals - VIDEO
RJ Investigations reporter Michael S. Davidson talks about how a rapid influx of coronavirus patients could soon inundate Nevada hospitals, pushing them past their capacity and threatening health care workers’ safety. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
M Resort donates food surplus to workers - VIDEO
The M Resort donated a surplus of perishable food supplies to team members after the closure of the hotel due to a shutdown of nonessential businesses in Nevada, Friday, March 20, 2020. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Costco reserved earliest hour for seniors - VIDEO
People line up outside Costco in Henderson after the store reserved earliest hour for seniors on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
2 pedestrians injured after being hit by vehicle - VIDEO
Two men were injured when they were hit by a car on Warm Springs Road near Bruce Street in southeast Las Vegas on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas shopping lines still long - VIDEO
Senior shoppers line up at 7 a.m. outside of Smith's Marketplace on Skye Canyon Park Drive in northwest Las Vegas, Friday, March 20, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Missing hiker's sister on staying hopeful - Video
Karsta Lucas, the sister of Ronnie Lucas, a hiker missing at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, said Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, that family members remain hopeful the 33-year-old diabetic will be found safe despite spending two nights in the open without his insulin. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Search continues for missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon - Video
Volunteers come out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area west of Las Vegas to help find a hiker, Ronnie Lucas, who went missing on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Search for missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon - Video
Red Rock Search & Rescue is looked for the missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on Monday, Feb. 10, 2010. The man was reported missing on Sunday. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ready to enforce homeless camping ban - VIDEO
Las Vegas police will begin enforcing a controversial camping ban on city streets on Saturday, but officials say they expect to impose the penalties available under the new ordinance only in rare instances. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officials celebrate opening of Las Vegas park named for slain officer - Video
Top public officials came together Friday morning to celebrate the grand opening of Officer Alyn Beck Memorial Park in the northwest valley, named after a police officer killed in the line of duty in 2014. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wrong-way driver causes fatal crash near Las Vegas airport, authorities say - VIDEO
A suspected impaired motorist driving the wrong way on the Airport Connector caused a crash that killed another driver near McCarran International Airport early Friday morning, Jan. 17, 2020, according to law enforcement. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The car that Tupac was shot in is for sale - VIDEO
The vehicle that legendary rapper Tupac Shakur was riding in when he was shot after a boxing match in Las Vegas is up for auction. The black 1996 BMW 7 Series is listed by Celebrity Cars Las Vegas for $1.75 million. (Angus Kelly/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST