Mark Hildreth, who was a professional wrestler under the name ’Van Hammer,’ was traveling 58 mph in a 35 mph zone, police estimate.
BOYNTON BEACH — A 5-year-old boy whose bicycle still had training wheels was struck Sunday afternoon by a car driven by former professional wrestler Mark "Van Hammer" Hildreth, who was speeding and drunk, and who then took off, Boynton Beach police allege.
Mark Hildreth, 60, is charged with leaving the scene of an injury crash and DUI with injuries.
The boy, whom police did not name, was thrown atop the car’s hood, a police report said.
He was taken as a trauma patient to Delray Medical Center, with possible internal injuries and "road rash." Police said the injuries are not life-threatening and he was in stable condition late Sunday.
In court Monday morning at the Palm Beach County Jail, Circuit Judge Ted S. Booras set bail for Hildreth at $125,000, with an option for house arrest. Prosecutors said Hildreth had a 2004 DUI arrest in Georgia.
Hildreth — 6-foot-6 and and 290 pounds in his prime — spent 12 years in wrestling before retiring in 2002, according to a 2013 Palm Beach Post profile. It said he moved to Boynton Beach in 2013.
According to a police report, just before 3 p.m. Sunday, the boy and his father were riding bikes on the 3400 block of South Seacrest Boulevard, near the Seacrest Scrub Natural Area at the city's south end, when one bike veered in front of Hildreth's black 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-550, heading north on Seacrest.
Police later would estimate the car was traveling 58 mph in a 35 mph zone.
The front-left corner struck one of the bikes, sending it onto the hood. As passersby went to help the child, Hildreth pulled off, jumped out, and said, “He jumped in front of me.” The other people said he then leaped back into his car and drove off southbound, even as they shouted for him to stop.
Eric Tilghman, an industrial door-installer who lives nearby, said he was driving with a friend Sunday when he saw the car strike the child.
“The father picked up the son off the road,” Tilghman told The Palm Beach Post on Monday. “The kid was crying. The dad was crying. The guy was out of the car.”
Then, he said, “I'm looking at the guy and he's getting back in the car. We're yelling at him, 'Don't you leave. Don't you leave!' ”
Tilghman, who said he has three children, said he and his friend followed the man to his home, at the same time snapping photos of his license plate and of him inside his car.
Moments later, two officers arrived and found Hildreth sitting on his porch steps, not far from the crash site.
Another person at the crash site had identified Hildreth from a photo lineup, the report said.
The police said Hildreth "made statements about being involved in the crash" and that he slurred his words and staggered and had alcohol on his breath, though he denied drinking. He later said he'd had drinks the night before.
He then began to weep and again said, “He drove out in front of me,” and that he had no time to react. He said he'd been driving home from his girlfriend's residence. He said that when the people began to berate him, he “didn't know what to do” and drove off.
He refused field tests and a breath sample and was arrested, the report said.
According to the 2013 Post feature, when Hildreth first moved to Florida, he ran Madaris Windows and Siding, a home-improvement company. He now is vice president of operations and sales manager at Paradise Exteriors, also based in Boynton Beach. Officials of that company weren’t available Monday.
Hildreth admitted in the 2013 Post story to having a drinking problem, saying, "I realized that if I didn’t change, I was surely going to die.” He added that, “I stay sober by helping other people get sober."
Hildreth remarried in 2013 to Diane Stokes. She filed for divorce in January 2018. Court records show the case is pending a settlement.
Staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.