NEW ORLEANS (May 29, 2007) -- The death of New England Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill, who fell off a jet ski in Lake Pontchartrain, was ruled an accidental drowning.
An autopsy found no signs of drug or alcohol in Hill's body, although more tests are planned and will take two weeks to complete, said Orleans Parish coroner Dr. Frank Minyard.
Minyard said Hill might have suffered a mild concussion when he fell off the water craft.
"He might of hit the right side of his face above the eye when he fell off the craft," Minyard said. "He had a pretty nasty bruise there."
There was a slight amount of blood in the brain, which could indicate a concussion, Minyard said.
"That could have caused him some confusion," Minyard said. "Although we were told he talked to the woman who was with him after the accident, he could have become disoriented."
Hill played on LSU's BCS championship team and was a second-round draft pick by New England in 2004. He had yet to start for the Patriots, playing in 13 games in his NFL career.
Hill and a female friend had ventured onto the lake the night of May 27 near the south shore. Investigators said neither was wearing a life vest. Authorities said they ended up in an area of swirling currents near where a shipping canal runs into the lake.
"The water goes through there very fast and it's very deep -- 70, 80, 90 feet deep," said Minyard, who fishes in the area.
While the woman survived by clinging to a pylon until she was rescued, the 24-year-old Hill, who friends described as a good swimmer, drifted away and disappeared. Searchers pulled his body from the water the afternoon of May 28.
"There were currents and very choppy waves," said Capt. Brian Clark of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department, who took part in the search. "That might have caused the accident, you have to know what you're doing in those conditions or you'll have trouble."
Hill was described by friends as a strong swimmer who included laps in his training routine. But the water conditions might have nullified his skill, Clark said.
State regulations require anyone riding the popular speedy water craft to wear a life jacket and be off the water a half-hour before sunset, said Coast Guard officer Aldo Portillo.
Hill and his companion set out about 8:30 p.m. Sunset was at 7:53 p.m., the Coast Guard said.
Hill's agent, Albert Elias, said the player spent much of his time since Hurricane Katrina helping rebuild the homes of family members including his mother, Sherry, and the mother of his 2-year-old son.
"From what I hear, he's done a lot to help with things after Katrina, and I know he had a great passion for the city of New Orleans," said former LSU quarterback Matt Mauck, who was Hill's teammate at LSU. "Off field he was a really kind person, kind of like a gentle giant. And not only for LSU, but for New England and everyone who got a chance to meet him throughout his life, everyone has to be extremely saddened and disappointed to hear the news."
After heading to the NFL, Hill continued to do much of his offseason training at LSU's Baton Rouge campus, about 80 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans. He was known and admired by current Tigers players, university athletics spokesman Michael Bonnette said.
"His presence meant a lot for some of the younger guys. He gave them someone to look up to and he was always there for them," Bonnette said. "Here's a 6-foot-6, 300-pound guy, as intimidating as can be, and yet every time you approached him he always welcomed you with a big old smile.
"In between the lines, he had his game-face on, but outside the lines, in the community or in the weight room, he was always smiling and having a good time."
The Associated Press News Service
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