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Hernando firefighter dies in car crash, 2nd agency death in 2 days

Captain Mark Dempsey’s death follows that of another 44-year-old firefighter. David Hackett died of COVID-19 complications Saturday.
Hernando fire captain Mark Dempsey, 44, died in an off-duty car crash while driving home early Monday morning.
Hernando fire captain Mark Dempsey, 44, died in an off-duty car crash while driving home early Monday morning. [ Courtesy of Hernando County Fire and Emergency Services ]
Published Sep. 27
Updated Sep. 27

BROOKSVILLE — A Hernando County Fire & Emergency Services firefighter died in a single-vehicle car crash early Monday morning, according to an agency news release, marking the second death the agency has faced in less than 48 hours.

Captain Mark Dempsey, 44, was off-duty and driving home when he crashed, the news release said. Spokesperson Kenneth D. Wannen said the crash was on Lithia Pinecrest Road, north of the New River Hills Parkway in Valrico around 3-3:30 a.m. Dempsey was just a mile or two from home, Wannen said.

Dempsey had worked for the department since 2001, becoming a captain in 2017. At the time of his death, he worked at Fire Station No. 7, serving as an acting battalion chief and coordinator for the hazardous materials team.

Dempsey is survived by a wife and two sons. His death comes just days after another 44-year-old officer, David Hackett, died of coronavirus complications.

James Billotte, deputy fire chief, said it’s “unimaginable” that the department would lose two people in two days.

“As you can imagine, it’s been extremely difficult for everybody in the department,” he said. “The fire department is a big family.”

Funeral arrangements are ongoing, and more information about the services will be released once they are finalized.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.