Photographs emerged Friday afternoon that showed the dramatic scene that played out on a Florida beach this week when first responders were called to save former NFL running back Peyton Hillis following a swimming accident.
The 36-year-old Hillis, who was on the cover of the 2012 Madden NFL video game, was rushed to the hospital by helicopter in critical condition after he saved his children from drowning in the ocean.
TMZ Sports obtained photos of the incident that showed a helicopter landing on the road to respond to the medical emergency.
Other photos showed Hillis lying on a backboard on the beach surrounded by lifeguards and paramedics. He was then loaded into the bed of a truck and taken to the hospital, according to the report. Photos appeared to show the first responders taking Hillis near an ambulance, but it’s unclear if he was put in the ambulance.
The photos did not show Hillis being put on the helicopter.
— TMZ (@TMZ) January 6, 2023
FOX24 reporter Alyssa Orange highlighted a post on Thursday from Hillis’ uncle, Greg Hillis, who wrote on social media: “I just wanted to let everyone know on Razorback Nation that Peyton is doing better. He’s still in intensive care and having some problems with his kidneys and his lungs but the doctors say he is improving. I just wanted to head off any rumors that may be started. I’m sure he would want everyone to know that he appreciates all of the prayers being thrown up on his behalf!!!”
“Adding to this information, I have confirmed Hillis was in a swimming accident in Pensacola, FL and helicoptered to the hospital. He remains unconscious in the ICU,” Orange wrote. “Family asks to please pray for him and a speedy recovery.”
— TMZ (@TMZ) January 6, 2023
Hillis was drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of the University of Arkansas.
The 6’2” 250-pound bruising running back had his breakout season in 2010, amassing more than 1,500 yards of total offense and scoring 13 touchdowns for the Cleveland Browns.
He followed up that season by racking up more than 700 yards of offense and three touchdowns in 2011. He played in 81 games over eight seasons with the Browns, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, and the New York Giants.
Hillis retired in 2015.
The accident involving Hillis comes just days after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after going into cardiac arrest.
Hamlin collapsed with about six minutes left in the first quarter of the game against Cincinnati after he tackled Bengals receiver Tee Higgins following a 13-yard catch. After the tackle, Hamlin got up, took a step backward, and fell to the ground.
Dr. Timothy A. Pritts and Dr. William Knight told reporters that Hamlin has shown “substantial improvement” in his recovery over the last couple of days.
The doctors said that Hamlin was able to move his hands and feet and was able to communicate through writing, but they said it was too early to know if he would make a full recovery.
“When he asked did we win, the answer is, yes, you know, Damar, you won, you’ve won the game of life,” Pritts said.
“We know that he’s home and that appears that all cylinders are firing within his brain,” Pritts said. “Which is greatly gratifying for all of us, for the nurses and respiratory therapists and caregivers as for his family and for everybody else beyond.”
When the doctors were asked about what caused Hamlin to go into cardiac arrest, they said that they do not know, but that answers could emerge in the future.
“The answer to that is that workup is ongoing,” Dr. William Knight answered. “We do not have definitive answers as to the etiology of the arrest at this time and that tests will continue to be ongoing as he continues to progress.”