Biloxi business owner survives close call in Haiti

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A Biloxi businessman is counting his blessings.  Brent Gutierrez was in Port au Prince, Haiti, on a business trip, the day the earthquake hit. He was supposed to spend the night in the large, downtown hotel which collapsed in the quake. But a last minute change of plans, likely saved his life.

"A lucky day," said a relieved Brent Gutierrez. "I think I used up one of my lives on that trip."

One of his companies, Killer Bee Baits, sells tackle that's handmade in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

"We drove through downtown Port au Prince. And the factory was actually quite near where the national palace and different things were, where the port was. We toured the factory for awhile. We stayed there until about 3:30. And we decided that instead of staying at the Hotel Montana, we would go ahead and drive over to Santa Domingo," said the Biloxi business owner.

That decision was likely a life saver. Gutierrez was on the road near the Dominican Republic border when the quake struck.

"We didn't even know the earthquake hit. You couldn't tell, cause the roads were so bad. The truck shook so much anyway that you really couldn't tell," he said.

"We heard that the earthquake had struck when we were on the Dominican Republic side. And we tried to call out and, of course, you couldn't call out, all the phone lines were jammed. So, really the people here knew the earthquake had struck before we even did," said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez watched the news coverage from his hotel in Santa Domingo that night.

"I'm lucky. I was supposed to stay at the Hotel Montana. And I came really close to staying there, so I'm glad I didn't. Just before I saw the UN building. They pointed out that UN building that collapsed. And we drove by the national palace and it was just, I saw some of that stuff maybe an hour before it happened," he recalled.

Brent Gutierrez is a frequent traveler. His company, Global Seafood Technologies, has business connections around the world. This was his first visit to Haiti and it happened to fall on his birthday.

"Just wasn't my time to go. I mean, up until the last minute, we were supposed to stay there and just changed our minds. Somebody was looking out for me," he said.

Gutierrez said the fishing tackle factory he visited in Haiti sustained minimal damage from the quake. He and other business owners are making donations to the factory owner, who has organized a relief effort to help the families of factory workers.

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