Cedar Rapids Disaster Specialist Teahen Heads to Haiti, with Actor John Travolta

By Rick Smith

(AP Photo/courtesy Peter Teahen)

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By Becky Ogann

CEDAR RAPIDS - Cedar Rapids’ Peter Teahen — disaster specialist, funeral director and recent candidate for the U.S. Congress — is flying into disaster-hit Haiti this evening with actor John Travolta and a medical contingent in Travolta’s jet.

The disaster-relief effort is being sponsored by the Church of Scientology, of which Travolta is a member, Teahen said from a cab Monday afternoon on his way to the Clearwater, Fla., airport.

Teahen, who is not a Scientologist, said the church has come to play a bigger and bigger role in disaster relief both internationally and in the United States. Teahen said he first met Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Teahen said his role in Haiti will be to help establish medical clinics across the country as residents of the capital, Port-au-Prince, leave that city, which was heavily hit by the recent earthquake.

Teahen was asked if he’d be willing initially to sleep at the airport outside of Port-au-Prince in a tent and sleeping bag. He is willing.

He won’t know if he will be staying at the airport or if he will be moving into the countryside, he said.

He said he expects to be in Haiti at least a couple of weeks.

In the past, Teahen has helped out in disasters in the Darfur region of Sudan and in Sri Lanka after it was struck by a tsunami. He also has worked at disaster scenes in the United States as a disaster specialist with the American Red Cross.

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