Questions remain about how Christopher Hill fell on March 12 from 77 Degrees Rooftop Bar after St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
By Aria Jones
Robert Hill considered himself lucky.
After all, Hill, a big equipment operator for Bridgeport, Texas, worked with his youngest son, Christopher Hill.
Earlier this month, the 25-year-old shared exciting news with his father. Christopher planned to propose.
Since Christopher and his girlfriend had dated for over six years, his parents were excited to see what lay ahead. A happy marriage? Grandchildren?
Instead, a St. Patrick’s Day celebrationin Dallaswould change everything.
After a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas saw a comeback of one of its most popular parades. On March 12, a Saturday, about 75,000 people lined a 2-mile stretch of Greenville Avenue sporting shades of green and cheering when beads, T-shirts or foam footballs were tossed.
Christopher — a high school football player from a rural area outside of Bridgeport — went to see the festivities over 70 miles away in Dallas with girlfriend Anastasia Rodriguez, 24, and other friends.
At about 10:45 p.m., police were called to 77 Degrees Rooftop Bar, an Old East Dallas spot that serves $12 cocktails amid wooden accents and white lounge furniture.
Christopher had fallen from the third floor of the bar at 2107 North Henderson Avenue, suffering fatal head injuries,according to a lawsuit filed by attorneys in Dallas County District Court on behalf of his family. Attorneys said in the lawsuit against bar owner Ginger/Degrees Dallas Group, LLC and 2107 N. Henderson Ave. LLC, the building’s owner, that the place was overcrowded and understaffed that night, according to the court document.
An attorney for the bar said in a statement that it employs a well-trained staff and wasn’t negligent.
While questions remain about how Christopher fell and whether his death could’ve been prevented, police are investigating his fall as an unexplained deathbut have not released further details.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is also investigating, a standard step anytime someone dies at a business licensed to sell alcohol.
“We’re pretty devastated,” said Christopher’s mother, Bettina Hill. “It’s so hard to believe that he’ll never walk through these doors again with his big smile and give you a big ‘ole hug.”
‘He would have already called me’
Robert Hill heard about his son’s proposal plans after he got to work. The father-son team not only had adjacent offices, but their parking spaces were also side by side.
Christopher worked in the water department operating heavy equipment while his father worked in the streets department.
They would “cut up a little bit” in the office when they would get to work and then play a practical joke on someone, Robert Hillsaid in a recent interview with The Dallas Morning News. On their way home, they’d talk on the phone about their day, and call again later inthe evening.
“He would have already called me at least once by now today, and we would’ve talked several more times during the day,” his father said a week after his son’s death. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without that.”
Christopher had worked for the city in high school. When he returned as an adult, departments fought over who would get him, Robert Hill said.
Christopher was recently promoted and was focused on paying off a house he bought for himself and his girlfriend a couple of years ago. His goal was to eventually build a house on the hill of his property in rural Wise County.
The couple started dating in the summer of 2015 and moved in together the following year.
Christopher’s parents considered Rodriguez part of the family, Bettina Hill said.
“I know it’s going to be hard for her because she lost her soulmate that supported her in everything that she was doing,” his mother said.
‘Gave everything his all’
As a Little League soccer coach for a couple of seasons, he would “race the kids across the field,” said his 29-year-old brother, Andrew Hill.
Andrew said he and his little brother would talk about sports daily.
“He was just my person,” Andrew said. “He knew me better than anyone else.”
Christopher started playing football around the second grade. When the boys were young, their father coached Pee Wee football.
In a high school football photo, Christopher was “flying like a bird with the ball in his hand,” his father said.
”I would tell somebody, ‘You’ve got to come to see him because he’ll make three or four touchdowns in the first half, and then they’ll have to tell him to slow down a little bit,’” Robert Hill said. “They didn’t believe me until I brought them to see him because he gave everything his all.”
He played the whole game: special teams, offense, and defense.
“He was everywhere,” said Dennis Cobb, a former high school coach. Christopher wasn’t a big guy, Cobb said, but he was a fast running back.
“He just had that thing that some kids have,” Cobb said. “He’s able to perform.”
Jonathan Ryle, who coached Christopher in football and track, said he had quiet confidence and “never backed down from anything.”
One time, Christopher got kicked in the ribs by a horse the day before a track meet. Christopher looked at him and said: “Coach, I’m gonna do it.”
Though Ryle said Christopher was in pain and could hardly breathe, he ran a relay race that put the team in a position to win the district meet that year.
After 25 years of coaching at Paradise High School, Ryle said he’ll never forget it.
“You get to see these kids grow up and then once while, there are tragedies that happen and it just kills you,” Ryle said. “It’s just hard to deal with, but I know God’s good.”
For Robert Hill, life won’t be the same without his son.
“He was the funniest person I’ve ever met,” his father said, “and he was just so full of life.”