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Officer Dies in I-95 Crash
JoAnn Merrigan
WSAV News 3
Sunday, February 27, 2005

The town of Hardeeville is mourning the death of a young police officer who died overnight.

Cpl. Mark Jones, 34, was discovered around 4:30 Sunday morning in his police cruiser, apparently not long after his car crashed along Interstate 95. No one is certain why Cpl. Jones' cruiser crashed.

This is the first time in the city's 94-year history that a Hardeeville officer has been lost in the line of duty. Early Sunday in Hardeeville, flags were already at half-staff.

"Officer Jones was a friend and will be sorely missed in the city of Hardeeville," said Rob Dewig, Hardeeville Police Department spokesman.

Emotions were apparent as many gathered at the police station. Several city council members came to lend support.

"This is much more than business. We're a close-knit community and everybody here is family," said city councilman Bill Horton.

Since 1911, this town has never lost a police officer in the line of duty. The community, with a little more than 2,000 people, has just 13 officers.

"Yeah, I spoke to him about 3 o'clock when he had made a security check where my daughter works," said Lt. Rhonda Cradle of the Hardeeville Police Department.

Lt. Cradle is like others here. She wants to know how Jones' patrol car ended up in the median of Interstate 95 near the South Carolina Visitors Center.

The vehicle's emergency lights were on. Jones had made a traffic stop at 3:45 Sunday morning.

"That was the last contact that we had. Next thing we heard was there was a vehicle in the median of I-95," Dewig said.

Tragically, about 4:20 Sunday morning, two fellow officers found Jones in his own patrol car.

"The state refers to that section of interstate as the 'crash corridor.' We cover far too many accidents there and this one happened to be our own," Dewig said.

While they work to find out exactly why Cpl. Mark Jones died, many say he was always there for the town. Now they promise support for his children and his wife.

"Oh, Hardeeville is going rally around her, I can make that prediction without the slightest hesitation," Dewig said. "We're a small town and a small staff. Everybody is going to be there for her."

Officer Jones leaves behind a wife and three children. He grew up in Beaufort and had worked for the Hardeeville Police Department since July of 2002.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is in charge of investigating the accident.
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