Justin Hill made it through Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now, the Biloxi native is on his way back to the United States after surviving near deadly winds as Hurricane Irma destroyed the casino resort where he was working on the island of St. Maarten.
Hill posted on social media Tuesday that he was just rescued by the Kentucky National Guard on a C-130 military plane. Last week the hurricane came right over the Caribbean island where Hill and about 100 guests and 50 staff members were holed up in the ballroom of the Casino Royale: St. Martin/St. Maarten, said his friend Kevin Parker.
“I've been so concerned about him,” Parker said.
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Media reports say most of the island is destroyed and all the food and water were gone.
Hill posted on social media after he and the others landed safely in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A banker in Puerto Rico met Hill, Parker said, and took him to his office so he could get a shower and food.
Hill thanked everyone for the thoughts and prayers that helped him through the ordeal via Facebook.
Tuesday afternoon he was at the airport ready to fly to the States.
Hill said he was thankful to be alive and well and was headed to Colorado to visit his brother, Ryan Hill, and get some rest.
The brothers grew up in Biloxi, Parker said, and their father, Royce Hill, lives in the city.
Before and after pictures show the casino resort before and after Irma tore through. “It totally devastated their property,” Parker said, and Hill lost everything.
The company posted on its website that due to the damages, all three three Sonesta resorts in St. Maarten are closed until further notice.
Rich Westfall, now vice president of business development and marketing at Charter Bank, hadn’t heard about Hill being in the eye of the storm and his rescue.
“Justin has to be one of the greatest guys I know,” said Westfall, who hired Hill at the Isle of Capri Resort Biloxi in 1995 as a regional sales manager. Hill had been director of sales and catering at two Holiday Inn properties in Gulfport, according to a report in the Sun Herald, before joining the Isle. In 2005, the year Katrina hit Biloxi, Hill was named director of marketing at the Isle of Capri.
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