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Stories of Strength: 5-5-5 Foundation

Last year there were more than 60 first responders killed in roadside incidents.
Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 11:32 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KJTV) - Last year there were more than 60 first responders killed in roadside incidents. Mark and Susan are dedicated to bringing that number down. The Hills lost their firefighter son in such an incident just over two years ago. Lt. Eric Hill died while serving others, a true passion of his.

“He loved his Country. He loved his God. He loved his family,” said Susan Hill, Lt. Hill’s mother.”

Lubbock firefighter J.W. Ray has memories of working with his friend, also as a first responder.

“Eric was a good friend of mine. We met a little over 16 years ago. We were both going to the academy at the same time, and we were also in EMT school together,” he said. “We formed a bond then going through that.”

This tragedy has further shown the stress and constant worry firefighters’ families go through. J.W. and his wife Laura are parents to two small children.

“In our prayers every night, we pray to make sure Daddy comes home safe. And, that’s a conversation we are trying to introduce to our children as well,” Laura said. “We hope Daddy comes home safe, but it’s a constant worry.”

27-year-old Lubbock Police officer Nicholas Reyna also died while responding to that crash. Firefighter Matt Dawson, with Lubbock Fire Rescue, was seriously injured. Mark Hill describes their families as the true strength of this life-changing event.

“We certainly don’t feel very strong most days. The Dawsons were involved, and the Reyna’s. They’re very strong. They’ve kept their families together. I mean, we’re the face that’s out there in front of people, but there’s also other people involved that have been very, very strong,” he said.

The day after the funeral, Mark and Susan formed the “5-5-5 Foundation.”

“The reason we call it 5-5-5 is after the bells that ring in honor of firemen that have fallen,” Mark said. “They ring five bells, three different times.”

The foundation has also provided a safer environment for firefighters on scene.

“As a department, we’ve changed our standard operating procedures on how we respond to car wrecks on high-speed roadways and on regular streets,” J.W. said. “We send more apparatus, so we have larger apparatus to block. That has really helped. It makes you feel safer when you’re out there working a car wreck, to know that you have a big ladder truck like this just a few hundred feet away kind of keeping traffic from coming into the wreck scene.”

After Lt. Hill’s death, his family wants to do their part to make sure others don’t feel the same level of grief.

“Our goal is that no other family has to go through what we’ve gone through, whether it’s first responder families or not,” Mark said.

To support the 5-5-5 Foundation, go to 555safety.com, or search for “555 Safety” on Facebook.

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