Toledo families home after being stranded in hurricane-ravaged Virgin Islands

Toledo families home after being stranded in hurricane-ravaged Virgin Islands

ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (WTOL) - Imagine being left in the dark with no food or running water. Further, you have to arm yourself with knives and pieces of wood to defend yourself against looters with guns.

It sounds like a horror movie, but it was real life for two Toledo couples left stranded on St. Thomas after Hurricane Irma ravaged the island.

All four of them returned to Toledo Monday around 8 p.m., after days of wondering how they would get off the island.

Brian Hayward and Monica Jones were in St. Thomas with another Toledo couple, celebrating a friend's birthday. But a dream trip quickly turned into a nightmare when Hurricane Irma tore through the island.

"I will take all the blizzards that they want to throw at me. I would never want to go through another hurricane," Brian Hayward said. "When we came outside of our resort, entire roofs were gone. It looked like a war zone."

Hayward says in the days following the hurricane, they were stuck on the island and left to fend for themselves as looters took over the resort property.

"When we came outside of our resort, entire roofs were gone. It looked like a war zone," Heyward said.

For days, they survived without power, running water or help from hotel managers. He says food was quickly spoiling at the hotel and along with some other guests, they bought it to cook for everyone.

"We built a fire on the beach to cook the food to feed everyone," Hayward explained.

We had to band together and get water for everyone, pretty much provide security for ourselves."

Hayward says looting was everywhere after Irma hit, and even uniformed police officers were seen looting. He said they did not know who they could trust.

"[The hotel employees] told us, 'Hey, FEMA's going to fly you guys out of here so we were up at 8 o'clock waiting out in the parking lot," Heyward said. "Then, literally, there was a truck of looters that drove through, scouting out the place."

Then they learned their flights out were canceled.

It was like being punched in the stomach," Hayward said. "Everyone got frustrated, they got mad, you know. And we were just trying to keep everyone calm. "

Marcy Kaptur's office helped them get to Puerto Rico by contacting FEMA and the local governor on St. Thomas Island. Monday, they finally were able to get on a flight back home.

Hayward and Monica Jones say they are relieved and very grateful to be back on American soil.

"We felt like we were never going to get out," Hayward said. "Monica put out on Facebook, 'I'm never leaving Toledo again!'"

Hayward says their thoughts and prayers are with the more than 40 Americans they left behind at the resort and everyone on St. Thomas. They are worried about their safety and their ability to recover from the storm.

If you know someone who's stranded outside the U.S. mainland because of the hurricane, Marcy Kaptur's Office is helping to register people directly with the state department.

The person in need of help may call 419-259-7500. They may also register via email.

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