Search for Hinton's granddaughter remains active

The spring semester began this week at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., as students and employees waited to hear new word on a group of missing students and faculty, including the granddaughter of McDonough businessman Zack Hinton.

Based on reports in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the rescue effort in Haiti to find Hinton's granddaughter, Courtney Hayes, along with three other missing students, and two faculty members, will likely end, and recovery work will begin, school officials said Tuesday.

Efforts to reach local members of Hayes' family in Henry County were unsuccessful. Calls to her grandfather and aunt, Tuesday, were not answered.

Courtney Hayes is from Douglas, Ga. Her parents are Franklin Hayes and Angie Hinton Hayes, who lived in Henry County for 20 years, but now live in Douglas.

Her uncle, attorney Dewey Hayes, also of Douglas, has spoken for the family. He said Hayes' friends have been real active in praying for her.

"The only information we have is that she could be anywhere," Dewey Hayes said. "We're just hopeful that she's still alive, and we're going to find her. But with each day that goes by, our hopes diminish."

According to reports in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Courtney Hayes is among four students and two professors still missing after the Jan. 12, 7.0-magnitude earthquake. The Hotel Montana — located in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, where they were staying — was heavily damaged.

Hayes' mother, Angie, was in Haiti Saturday, but returned to Georgia on Sunday, according to news accounts out of Florida. Her mother told Palm Beach County's NewsChannel 5 she had been holding onto the "1 percent" chance her daughter was still alive.

"But in your heart, you know," she said. "It looked like 9-11. It pancaked," Angie Hayes said of the hotel. "There was just no way anyone was coming out of there. And the smell of death was everywhere. I've never smelled that smell, and I'll never forget that smell."

In the university's web site update, Lynn officials said search-and-rescue operations at the hotel, where the group was believed to be trapped, were winding down. That is, according to reports from the ground, as well as communications from the U.S. State Department to the families of those missing, Lynn officials said.

"Heavy equipment is reportedly in use, and U.S. search-and-rescue teams are said to be in the process of handing over the site to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers later today," noted Tuesday's university update.

Courtney Hayes, 23, was part of a 14-member missions-team project in Haiti, called "Journey of Hope." It was part of the food for the poor organization, Hayes' aunt, Debbie Hinton, told the Henry Daily Herald in a previous interview.

Eight students on the missions team were found and returned to campus, said Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross. He and other university officials have sought to keep the community informed through the school's web site.