Life in prison for flying a drone
They just drop me between these two garage doors with barbed wire, no lighting, broken windows bugs all over the ground, they’ve taken my cell phone and it’s. At that point, like my life started flashing before me: hi everybody, my name is chris howe and welcome back to the youtube channel on this week’s episode. We are starting a brand new series called production, horror stories. Now you probably clicked on this video, because you saw this title right here: well, let’s just dive right into it. Introducing my friend chris hughes tell us this crazy story. Let me take a breath of fresh air. Roughly four years ago, i found myself in havana the center of havana, with a friend that i met a cuban friend that i met and we were looking up and we saw two beautiful big buildings with big faces on it, and i broke out my drone. So i thought let me get a good aerial shot of these buildings, so i could take home and show my friends and family as i began to fly. The drone i was big smiles and military officer walked over to me and it’s. My worst fear started shouting at the drone right, first and foremost, yes, i’m flying a drone. Yes, drones were relatively new at that time, and the majority of people didn’t even know what a drone was, so he was yelling and screaming at me. In spanish, i brought the drone down more military started to surround me and it’s at that point, like my life started flashing before me right, the friend that i was with that was cuban.
They immediately broke us apart. We went two separate police cars to what you would only presume to be like a movie set type jail, slash police office like no lighting, broken windows. I could hear him in the next room getting yelled at. I was getting yelled at, and the basics of this whole thing is like we were being pointed at as being american spies. So what went from like like let’s just have a friendly drone aerial shot in the park to uh did? Were you aware that uh fidel castro was in the building that you happen to be filming? Oh it’s, all circumstantial yeah, and how did you know that he was gon na be there and who are you working for uh, so that was the beginning of a very sh a nightmare? Basically a nightmare, oh okay. So how are you feeling at this time, like what’s, going through your head? What is what’s the situation like yeah it’s, tough because, like it was all happening so fast. Nobody spoke english and my spanish is like enough to order a decent meal at a restaurant right. So the whole idea is they’re gon na fight for your life yeah now right and there’s nobody, i can call upon uh they’ve, taken my cell phone um at that point. Like memories of my my wife and my children like what’s, going on here, you know because, like being canadian i’m used to if something goes wrong, there’s always a way out of it.
Okay, like pick up the phone call, a lawyer: do something call a friend yeah, but now i’m in a cuban jail in which nobody knows i’m at right, because they’ve taken everything away from me, i’m being yelled at and once again i normally. I can talk myself out of a situation, but now no one understands what i’m saying so i’m just sitting there looking like a guilty spy for the united states government uh and to make it even funnier it’s, like i’m, trying to think how did you come up With the concept that i’m a i’m canadian from the us, while they’ve gone through my phone, they made me type in my pin number to see all the calls i’ve made yeah and going through my phone. They were able to find my wife, children and i at the white house, like a picture of like the tourist type picture in front of the white house, so they just assume so the assumption is like. When is the last time you spoke to president obama and i’m like oh right yeah, it was quite an experience. It was intensive. The first day was about 14 hours of questioning and even every step along the way, i’m thinking. Okay, there’s no way they can believe. I’M, a spy yeah right it doesn’t even make any sense um those glasses are pretty spotlight yeah and at every point, i’m thinking. Okay, like they’ve yelled at me, enough they’re gon na.
Let me go back to my hotel and resume my vacation um and because i didn’t understand what was going on there was, you know, like the whole scary. Part of this whole happening was just the not knowing you had mentioned when we were chatting – and i heard this story that you got like quote – unquote life in prison right. Can you explain what that means in terms of your situation right so after i got yelled at at the police station and what they’ll call is interrogated, but me not understanding the language they said. Okay, come in the car, and even at that point they didn’t tell me where i was going. What was going on? The car pulls up into this garage like where one door opens and then the other door closes behind you so it’s, like a movie still at that point, don’t know because i don’t know the city enough to know where i’m going yeah i’m thinking, maybe they’re gon Na hold me until the airport tomorrow like at that point, they took all my suitcases, so they put me in this it’s funny because they just dropped me between these two garage doors with barbed wire and the car left and i’m asking like what’s going on, and He just left me there so for hours. I was just sitting alone in a square room with no like signage, like no understanding of where i was even at, and then then a man came over with the prison.
What i would know to be a prison guard. Yeah and he says, come and, like then i’m, then it’s kicking in like well i’m at a prison. How long am i going to be here? What what type of prison is? This, like, i don’t, know anything yeah, i don’t know if i’m getting out tomorrow. So as they strip search you and take all your stuff, um i’m asking the man like how long am i here all right and they’re they’re like laughing like to them it’s, like ha ha, oh tomorrow, tomorrow yeah. So when i got into the cell it was like middle of the night, so there was no one else. I couldn’t even see if there were other people in the cells right, but it was one person per cell. I had like three beds and, as once again it’s like what you would imagine a cuban cell to be right, like bugs all over the ground, no windows like you have in once again. What do i expect? Okay, like yeah, i did something wrong so i’m in that situation, because i did something wrong. That seems like a very intense extreme though i know, but the biggest thing is like the first like we’re from canada. Okay, so we have a privilege that most people don’t have already in third world countries and around the world. So, yes, i was flying a drone illegally in a country that i was visiting, so that was the first part.
I don’t expect like five star treatment right, but it’s still an eye opener when you walk in and there’s no electricity like the guard to turn the light on literally went like this and put two pieces of metal together, um, and that was the beginning of you Know a long stay which seemed even longer every day. What, when am i gon na get out of here? When can i talk to my wife? When can i talk to my family so the next morning there was one gentleman that wasn’t far from me, that was from russia that is doing over two years right now, like i don’t know, if he’s still there but he’s doing over two years in the in The prison and he spoke a little english um, so i shout across and just ask him like how long were you here, yeah he’s, like i’ve, been here two years. I got an argument with my cuban wife and i’m thinking two years for getting an argument with a and i’m flying a drone for yeah for the us obama um, so like yeah, it was it was. It was definitely a scary, scary, um cycle of just not knowing absolutely anything. Okay, so obviously you’re. Here you got out what what happened? How long were you in jail and how did you get out of jail? So i ended up spending 13 days in that cell and because i was in the investigation stage, i was never allowed out of the cell yeah, where other people could get some outdoor activity.
I was locked inside uh a room yeah within i’d, say by day three. My wife not hearing from me from day one yeah. She thought something was up, so she called the canadian embassy in ottawa and they have a team of people that will find you if you’re in the hospital in jail or you died abroad like that’s their job. It’S good to know um so by day, three like to the excitement for the first time i heard somebody speaking english yeah, so they said chris come in the canadian um consulate has sent somebody and it’s funny because it’s like a movie like we went in this Little dirty room with like old leather couches, like it looked like a motel right yeah, and they, let me see the canadian consulate, the person, the representative from the canadian consulate for the first time, and it was like all this pressure that was on me of people, Not knowing where i was like, oh i could. I could breathe yeah yeah that’s at least been found because at least somebody knows i’m there right. So we weren’t allowed to talk alone. Everything was recorded, like with big cameras, a lot of people sitting around, and the woman asked me like what do you suggest chris? What can i do? I said well tell my family i’m, okay, yeah and like how long am i gon na, be here and she’s like chris? We have a good relationship with cuba, but you have to let them do what they want to do you can’t fight them, like you, can’t and her advice was don’t, be aggressive.
If you want to get out of here anytime, soon, really calm down, respect their process. Even though we don’t know what their process is she’s like can i get you anything i’m like if you can get me anything cause i’m just sitting in a cell yeah she’s like i’ll, try to get you a book, she asked them. Can he have a book they’re like no nothing nothing, so i just asked her like. Can you give me an estimate how long you think i’ll be here, yeah and she’s told me she doesn’t know it could be two years it could be 20 years and and going once again that breath of fresh air that i had by seeing her turn back Into like anxiety and nightmare, you know being a father of three young children and at night and during the day, all i’m thinking about is like me, coming out of a cuban prison at 60 years old, with my children, married and stuff. So i mean that part. It could have been a reality, difficult, yeah and i said: do you think it will help if we went to the media and just said like canadian in jail, yeah she’s like no don’t, try to embarrass the cuban government right it’s not going to work they’ll use! You as an example and keep you here longer. How did you get out? It was amazing because, like on the 12th day, i was trying to befriend the guards.
The guards were actually really nice, young military, yeah um, and there was a point during this whole process that i came up with this brilliant idea that if i was sick, i would sleep more yeah, because when you’re like i can’t even sit still now never mind 24 hours a day in a little cell yeah, so i came up with this idea like let me do a hunger strike and somehow make myself sick to the point where i have no energy and i sleep more yeah, but the guard after four days i wouldn’t Eat or drink the guard would say chris, please that was his only thing he could say crit like he actually cared right so i’m after day four, i started eating again. Uh it didn’t help me it didn’t, make me sleep more yeah. It made me hungrier yeah right, but on like the 12th or 13th day, he snuck me out into the yard yeah by myself, so the yard is like a cage of metal everywhere, but for the first time in almost two weeks i was allowed outside uh and I was so excited and he’d tell me like if i continue eating proper every day. He’Ll sneak me outside on the 12th day, 12th or 13th day i’m laying outside, like in my underwears, just enjoying the sun. Knowing i only have an hour and i’m starting to hear things i’m hearing, somebody speaking english, but saying my name and i’m looking around because i’m in this, like cage, uh and i’m, like there’s, no way like who are these people speaking in english um and then The sergeant of the military of cuba, a different person i hadn’t met, spoke perfect.
English yeah was there with the canadian government, saying we’ve decided that you’re innocent of all charges and it happened so fast man. It happened from me like basking in the sun. To like me, being in this little corner room where they’re like you’re innocent – and i already had built up in my mind, i’m – going to be there for years yeah. So they told me, i’m innocent, the military shook my hand and said we apologize that it took two weeks to go through this. They said nothing in the world is more important than the people of cuba, so they’ll do anything to keep the government safe, yeah, which i understood. He said that i will get the drone back. We’Ll give you the drone, get the drone down. Give you the footage. They eliminated the footage in which uh fidel castro was in the building yeah. He said you’re welcome to come back to cuba any time he said. Go home bring your drone home come back tomorrow and we have open arms for you, like cuba, welcomes you back yeah and then the next part was like get me out of here: i’m ready ready to go home and they said like the next flight is in Two days, so they brought me and it’s, not. I don’t know for the people that have been to cuba: it’s, not like canada, where you can just buy a ticket online yeah like you, have to go line up in long kiosks and find somebody that will sell you a ticket, yeah uh, so that whole process Took place with me in handcuffs and shackles, with police around me, um everybody watching me right.
Two days later, i was able to buy a ticket and the funny thing is like the whole process included me going from the prison, even though i befriended the guards, and they were like laughing with me and happy for me, yeah uh the guards were doing their Job and they had me shackled up so even going through the airport in havana, it’s, like they’re holding me and everybody looking at me, like i’m, a real criminal yeah, but i was just so happy to get on that airplane. Nobody would sit beside me because they walked me in everybody that was in that row got up and left right, and i felt so incredibly good that i was just on my way home and that’s. How i, how uh, how i got out i’ll end on two questions? One you mentioned that you were like grateful to go through that experience. Can you elaborate on that thought process yeah for sure, like i don’t regret anything i’ve done in life and there’s definitely times where i’ve made mistakes i’ve done things, i shouldn’t have uh the far majority of the time i’m able to talk my way out of it And just chalk it up as an experience, it changed me as a father. It changed me as a person like we all talk about it. We hear about it that our life could end at any point. Yeah, most of the time people think that’s through a car accident or something along those lines, but me being a solo traveler it just like.
It woke me up to the fact that i have to be careful what i’m doing in other countries, because a simple mistake or slip up or breaking the rules could end up in the manner it did yeah. So it is a story that i’m glad i have it’s not like. I regret doing it. I don’t think about. If i could go back in time, would i do it again because it happened right yeah and i have visited cuba since then, and i’ve i’ve got so many great memories from the country so i’m, not anti cuba. It was just the process itself in the not knowing the language, which was the most difficult part for me. Dude i’m super inspired after talking to you and hearing the stories, and just also your outlook on life with this opportunity. Right now, do you have any messages for the people that are watching or anything that you’d like to say, yeah for sure travel like if you’re an adventurous type person and even if you’re not. I really believe that the best experiences that you’ll have in life are through travel and some of my best experiences in life have come through just not knowing where i’m going to end up tomorrow and learning along the way. So my advice is to travel. I love it if you guys want to go check out. Chris i’ll leave all his links in the description below. He has two youtube channels.
You can go, follow him on instagram too. The guy is a giant bucket of inspiration. Uh.