Miss. FF-medic who once escaped death in motorcycle crash dies of COVID-19

Mark Hilley – a Gulfport firefighter and Harrison County battalion chief – survived a motorcycle crash in 2019 and vowed to "never waste another day"


Margaret Baker
The Sun Herald

HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. — First responders are mourning the death of longtime Gulfport firefighter and Harrison County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Mark Hilley after a battle with COVID-19.

Hilley, 53, died Monday night at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, the two agencies said in a public Facebook post expressing their grief.

Hilley, 53, died Monday night at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.
Hilley, 53, died Monday night at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.

First responders in Gulfport, Harrison County and surrounding agencies escorted Hilley's body to a Riemann's Family Funeral home location in South Mississippi.

"HCFR lost great man," Harrison County Fire Rescue said in a tribute. " Mark Hilley is the epitome of a firefighter's firefighter."

Hilley was also a U.S. Marine and paramedic.

Hilley had served 21 years as a Gulfport firefighter.

"Tonight, we at the Gulfport Fire Department lost a brother — District Chief Mark Hilley to COVID-19," the Gulfport Fire Department said. "Please keep Marks' family in your prayers as they try to get through this tragedy.

"I couldn't have been prouder to see 70+ members of the Gulfport Fire Department, Harrison County Fire Services, Gulfport police, Harrison County Sheriff's Department, and other agencies as well, escort Mark and his family from Memorial Hospital to Riemann's Funeral home on half an hour's notice."

A near-death motorcycle crash

In June 2019, the Sun Herald interviewed Hilley about surviving a near fatal motorcycle crash that May. He and his daughter, Natalie, shared a love for riding motorcycles but got into an accident after rounding a curve about two miles from their home.

Hilley had suffered severe injuries in the crash, including a collapsed lung, nine broken ribs, lacerated kidney, damage to his liver and spleen and broken wrist.

He vowed then to "never waste another day" of his life, but gave up his love for riding motorcycles after that.

Firefighter recalled near-death experience

During his three-week stay in a Mobile hospital, Hilley talked a moment where he was near death and thought he had died.

"I didn't see God but I believe he talked to me, in my mind and in my heart, I believe he did," Hilley said at the time. "He didn't say the typical thing 'I'm not done with you, You have more life to live.' He said 'Get up, you have a family to take care of.' That is life-changing."

Hilley survived the crash and spoke of the loving support he received from his devoted wife, Carla, and other family along with the generous help of first responders and others in the community who reached out to help the family.

This story will update with funeral service information as it is available.

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(c)2021 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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