The first thing you noticed if you ever met Eric Hill were his bright, crystal blue eyes.
The second thing his friends growing up in Lovington noticed were Hill’s clothes.
“He got the nickname ‘City’ from Tyson Burkett because of the preppy clothes he wore,” said Loving-ton educator Josh Faith. Faith was three years younger than Eric Hill. The age difference never mattered to Hill, who treated everyone the same.
“I looked up to him so much back then,” Faith said. “I was this awkward junior high kid and he was this popular high school guy. We went to church together and he took me under his wing. He and Tyson would harass me a bit, like big brothers do to little brothers. That’s what I was was to him. He was always so calm, I always admired him for that.”
A member of the 1995 Wildcats state championship football team, Hill was a popular student and athlete at Lovington High school. He attended college at South Plains College and Texas Tech University. Then 10 years ago, Hill became a firefighter with the Lubbock Fire Department.
On Saturday morning, Hill, 39, and a fellow first responder, Lubbock Police Officer Nick Reyna, 27, died while responding to a crash in hazardous weather in Lubbock. Officials with the LPD stated they were responding to a single-vehicle rollover in northern Lubbock. While on that scene, a second vehicle wrecked near the scene.
As emergency personnel were working both crashes a third vehicle crossed into the median and struck Hill, Reyna, and a third first-responder, firefighter Matt Dawson. Reyna died at the scene. Hill later died at a Lubbock hospital and Dawson, 30, remains in critical, but stable, condition Lubbock Fire officials said.
By Saturday afternoon news broke about the former Loving-ton Wildcat.
Hill was one of the finest young men to ever walk the halls of Lovington High according to Josh Faith’s dad and former Lovington football coach Speedy Faith.
“He was very kind and caring,” Speedy Faith said. “He had a great outlook on life. His character was beyond reproach. On the field he was relentless. He spent countless hours practicing catching and tackling; and being tackled by one Brian Urlacher (NFL Hall of Fame Linebacker), who was a senior when Eric was a sophomore.”
Tyson’s younger brother, Ryan Burkett, who lives in Lubbock, said Hill would stop by his business for a visit every now and then.
“Eric was the epitome of a true friend because he truly cared about the well being of others above his own,” Ryan Burkett said. “So when I heard he had given his life while helping someone else, it really hit home because that was him. If someone needed him, he was there. His career of paramedic and firefighter definitely fit who he was, a man who always wanted to help in anyway he could. That selflessness to be there for others in need made him as genuine of a human being I’ve ever been around. This world needs more Eric Hills in it. He will be missed by all those that had the honor to know him.”
Eric Hill lived in Snyder, Texas, when his family to Lovington before his seventh-grade year. While living in Synder, he became friends with Tim Burrow. After Hill’s move the two lost touch until 10 years ago when Burrow reconnected with Hill, a rookie with the Lubbock Fire Department.
“Eric was a good firefighter,” Burrow said. “For a firefighter to say that about another firefighter, that’s a huge compliment. That means that he was good at his job. He was one of those guys you could really depend on at a scene when bad stuff happens. He knew his job whether it was as a paramedic or a firefighter.”
This past June, Hill was promoted to lieutenant. That process started when Hill started conversations with Burrow about leadership.
“We started trading books on leadership to become better leaders,” Burrow said. “As a lieutenant you are in charge of four other firefighters and it’s important to lead the right way and strive to get better everyday.”
The father of twin three-year old daughters, Hill loved his girls. Burrow said he would talk about them all the time and would take on overtime hours to give him the opportunity to spend more time with them.
“Everything he did was for them,” said Burrow. “He was such a proud dad.”
Josh Faith said despite his “City” nickname, Hill eventually changed out those preppy clothes for jeans, boots and a cowboy hat. Burrow said his love for horses became apparent.
“Eric was a cowboy at heart,” Burrow said. “He loved his horses and loved everything about them, riding them and breaking them. Horses were his passion. He was a good firefighter and paramedic, but his heart was really … he felt alive when he rode horses.”
Burrow said that until Saturday the last Line of Duty Death (LODD) in Lubbock was 41 years ago.
“You hope to make it your whole career and not experience one,” Burrow said. “It’s tough on the family first and foremost. It’s tough on the guys who were with him when it happened as they tried to provide the best medical care that they could on scene. It’s a brotherhood. We rally behind those who are hurt. It’s been encouraging to see the amount of support since it happened.”
Josh Faith may not have been a firefighter or a paramedic, but he wore a uniform as a member of the New Mexico Military National Guard. It understands the kind of brotherhood developed by men in uniform. All dedicated with one purpose, to help others. In that instance, knowing how his “big brother” died, makes him proud.
“As a soldier, that is an honorable way to go,” Josh Faith said, “and I think God honors that as well.”
Hill’s life, according to Speedy Faith, is all attributed to his parents, Mark and Susan.
“My heart breaks for them,” he said, “but I’m confident that Eric is resting in the arms of Jesus.”
A GoFundMe page for Hill’s family assistance has been established. As of Monday, $42,961 has been donated. GoFundMe pages for Reyna and Dawson have also been established. There are also bank accounts set up as well at People’s Bank in Lubbock. For Hill use account No. 201667620. For Reyna use account No. 201657919 and for Dawson use account No. 201657064.
According to the Lubbock Fire Department, Hill’s funeral service is scheduled for Friday, at 9 a.m. CST at the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University. His burial is scheduled to follow at Resthaven Cemetery.