Hernando Fire and Emergency Services loses two veteran firefighters in 48-hours

Hernando County

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s been an emotional week for first responders in Hernando County after they lost two colleagues and friends unexpectedly.

On Sunday, they learned 44-year old driver/engineer David Hackett passed away after a battle with COVID-19. Then on Monday morning, 44-year old Captain Mark Dempsey died in a car crash on the way home.

On Tuesday, crews put up a memorial bunting for Hackett at Fire Station 14 at the Brooksville airport, where he last reported for duty.

Hernando Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Chief James Billotte says he’s still numb. He doesn’t believe the reality has hit him yet. He feels many of his peers are feeling the same way.

“I just don’t think that reality has sunk in for everybody just yet. You can tell,” said Deputy Chief Billotte. “I’ve been out talking to crews and our folks are hurting.”

Deputy Chief Billotte says first responders are used to dealing with tragedies, but they usually don’t hit this close to home.

“As first responders sometimes for a lot of our folks it’s tough to admit that they are hurting,” said Deputy Chief Billotte. “We have special people here this week assisting us. We’ve got a critical incident team here from Pasco County Fire that is graciously supporting us during this time.”

Funeral arrangements for both men are still being worked out.

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