BILOXI -- Jason Owens had one of the best weekends of his career as a food and beverage manager and was on his way home to his wife and children when he was killed in a motorcycle crash, a friend and colleague said.
Owens, 42, of Gulfport, had done all he could to help make the weekend a success in the rebranding of Harrah's Gulf Coast, formerly Grand Casino Biloxi, said Robert Joachim, senior executive casino host.
"It was his finest moment," Joachim said.
Thousands of guests visited the property Saturday night, when Harrah's hosted a free Darius Rucker concert, a fireworks display and other special events.
Owens, the father of four children, died after he apparently attempted to avoid a crash. He was westbound when he hit the curb of a median near Oak Street on U.S. 90, flew off his motorcycle and struck a palm tree in the median.
"He had a tremendous knowledge of the food and beverage business and was an honest, hard worker," Joachim said. "He put in long hours -- 12-, 13-, 14-hour days.
"He loved Harrah's, he loved the employees, he loved his wife, he loved his children and he loved that damn motorcycle."
Owens, who spent most of his life in Anchorage, Alaska, had worked at the casino property for five years.
Shay Smith, Harrah's marketing specialist, said Owens was "a much loved and respected member of the Harrah's Gulf Coast family. This tragic, isolated accident is devastating to our team. We extend our deepest sympathies to Jason's family and friends and are working with team members to assist them in the grieving process."His death is a double-loss for the Harrah's family, Joachim said.
Owens' wife, Tara Horn Owens, is assistant general manager of Magnolia House by Kelly English, the fine dining restaurant at Harrah's.
Funeral services are set for Wednesday at Riemann Family Funeral Home on Beauvoir Road. Visitation starts at 1 p.m. The service begins at 3 p.m.
Another service will be held in Anchorage.