Jenison man dies after traveling to Florida to help in hurricane aftermath



JENISON — A Michigan man who traveled to Naples, Fla., to help a friend in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian has died of a deadly bacteria that lives in standing water.

James Hewitt, from Jenison, fell in the water while helping a friend with his boat and scratched his leg, according to FOX-17.

Hewitt put antibacterial ointment on the wound and thought that was enough, his fiancée, Leah Delano, told the news station.

“He just helped so many people,” she said. “That’s exactly what he wanted to do.”

Hewitt went to the hospital after his leg became swollen and he was in pain.

That’s when doctors diagnosed the infection as vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria found in warm salty or brackish waters that can enter the body through open wounds.

“It attacks your vital organs and leaves you with horrible blisters near the area,” Delano told FOX-17. “He scratched his leg and it was unrecognizable.”

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One of Hewitt’s sons, Kendall Smoes, posted on his Facebook page that her father fought hard but died peacefully with his family and fiancé by his side. Smoes could not be reached for comment.

The Florida Department of Health said in early October that sewage spills in coastal waters from Hurricane Ian could increase bacteria levels.

“Vibrio vulnificus may cause skin infection when open wounds are exposed to hot seawater,” a notice reads. “These infections can lead to skin lesions and ulcers. Anyone can get a Vibrio vulnificus infection; However, infections can be serious for people with weakened immune systems, especially people with chronic liver disease or who take medications that reduce the body’s ability to fight germs.

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