Help coming for Lafourche shrimper whose boat was stranded by Ida, ravaged by thieves

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 9:53 PM CDT
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GOLDEN MEADOW, La. (WVUE) - Help is on the way for a shrimper in Lafourche Parish who has been unable for more than a year to get his boat back in the water after it was stranded aground by Hurricane Ida.

Fox 8 last week showed the plight faced by Rodney and Rita Verdin, whose fishing vessel La Belle Idee was tossed into a Golden Meadow marsh by the storm and has since been targeted by thieves stripping its equipment and parts.

“We’ve got so many phone calls of people willing to help and (saying) that they feel so sorry for us about our story, and to keep our heads up, that there’s hope and we’re gonna get it together,” Rita Verdin said. “Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, he called me the very next day and told me that he was going to help us get this boat down into the water.”

Nungesser and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board have partnered with Fill the Needs, a nonprofit disaster relief organization run by Chef Amy Sins, to start a fundraiser for the boat owners.

“I think we slept so good this week, because it was a sign of relief,” Rita Verdin said.

She said she and her husband finally feel hopeful after a fruitless year of trying to get their livelihood back on track.

“What’s on the boat is all we have,” she said. “Everything else is gone.”

Rodney’s childhood home, which had become the base camp of his shrimping business, also was wiped out by Ida.

After a year of unanswered pleas made to every government office and elected official they could think of, thieves have stolen tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment from the storm-stranded boat.

“(Rodney) would go every two, three days and (find) something else was missing off the boat,” Rita said. “Then, we just lost hope. There was nothing we could do.”

She said the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office now has some leads, but thieves have pillaged even more from the boat just since last week, taking parts from the generator and engine.

“We thought we would be able to just put it down in the water and do a little bit and start it up,” Rita said. “Now, you have nothing left in there. It’s almost a shell.”

Nungesser said his heart broke hearing that hard-working people were being victimized again after struggling to recover. He donated $1,000 to the fundraiser.

Rita said other organizations also have signaled a willingness to pitch in.

“I believe with the help from all the good people out there that we’re gonna get this boat down,” Rita said. “I just thank everyone who’s stepping forward to help us with this. It means so much to us, you know, you just don’t have a clue.”

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