Longtime Gulfport firefighter dies from COVID-19 at age 53
GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - First responders in Harrison County are mourning the loss of one of their own. Mark Hilley, 53, died Wednesday night from COVID-19, according to a post by Gulfport Fire Department.
District Chief Mark Hilley served more than 20 years with Gulfport Fire Department and was a battalion chief for Harrison County Fire Rescue. He was also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“Mark Hilley is the epitome of a firefighter’s firefighter... He devoted his life to public service,” said a post from Harrison County Fire Rescue.
Within a half-hour of his death, first responders from across Harrison County arrived at Memorial Hospital to escort Hilley’s body to Riemann’s Funeral Home, noted the post.
“Please keep Mark’s 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 Department, 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. Please keep the Hilley family and his extended family in the fire and emergency services in your prayers as we grieve the loss of a tremendous public servant, our brother, a son, a father, and a husband,” said Gulfport Fire Chief Michael Beyerstedt.
Hilley is the second first responder in South Mississippi to die this week from COVID-19. On Sunday, Cpl. Robert Verzal with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department died at the age of 39.
The Gulfport firefighter made news in 2019 when he and his then 14-year-old daughter were in a bad motorcycle wreck. For months, Hilley fought to recover from his injuries, which included nine broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a lacerated liver, spleen and kidney.
Hilley is survived by his wife Carla and their two children. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
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