University of Central Florida alumni McKinnley Workman and Sebastien Benoit, co-founders of Lakay Vet, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by armed bandits in Haiti over the weekend, fellow classmate Mathew Coalson shared with Knight News.
The engineers arrived at the headquarters of the biogas company at 1 p.m. only to be met by a gang of 20-30 bandits who had been terrorizing the site and local farmers for approximately one week, according to the company. The attackers had specific orders to kill the pair and seize the site, Lakay Vet says.
The alumni quickly shouted ties to the United States Embassy as a deterrent that appeared to initially work in their favor, as the gang members waved handguns.
The gang threw rocks and punches instead, knocking unconscious Benoit while wresting Workman and stealing personal property. Repeated close-quartered combat took place before Workman dragged Benoit to safety with the help of local farmers who ran from their homes to the pair, Coalson said.
“Benoit and Workman sustained serious cuts, bruises, severe head, and limb trauma and even a large human bite wound. After the attack, the pair managed to drive themselves in the heavily damaged truck first to the Croix-des-Bouquets courthouse, then after hours of waiting, were able to get back on-site with the police to recover some company assets and ensure the safety of the community. After dark, they finally made it to the hospital where their injuries were treated,” Lakay Vet said in the release.
The property is still under the control of the gang. Locals who came to the aid of Workman and Benoit are “afraid to return to their farmland or to Lakay Vet,” the company said.
Lakay Vet supported Haitian President Jovenel Moise and his encouragement of foreign and local investment, contrasting the xenophobic attitude of the bandits that planned the attack in the release. The biofuels company refused to comply with bribes and demands made by the attackers.
“They left computer engineering jobs in Silicon Valley, with all the comforts that entail, to start something sustaining in Haiti, where Sebastian is from,” Coalson said on Facebook.
“In Haiti, they have paid their employees a living wage. They offered classes to their employees aimed as much at improving the employee’s lives as improving their business model. Now their success has enticed leaches, willing to beat them dry.”