The founder of a popular South Florida gay travel and entertainment website died Friday after he was struck by three vehicles as he crossed U.S. 1 in the Florida Keys.
Mark Haines, 54, founder of Mark’s List, had just finished the first leg of The SMART Ride — one of the country’s leading HIV/AIDS fund-raising bike rides — from Miami to Key West, said Stephen Lang, a friend and photographer for the website that Haines created a decade ago. After dinner and an award’s ceremony at the Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key, Haines decided to walk back to his hotel about four miles away, Lang said.
As he crossed the three-lane highway at mile marker 59 on Grassy Key about 7:05 p.m., Haines walked in front of a southbound pickup truck, Florida Highway Patrol duty officer Franco Destin said.
Haines was struck twice more by two cars swerving to avoid the truck, Destin said, and he died at the scene. All three drivers remained until officers arrived, Destin said.
In announcing Haines’ death on the Mark’s List website, nephew Matthew Haines said his uncle died “after the best day and the best ride of his life.”
Haines, of Fort Lauderdale, launched the popular Mark’s List website after moving to South Florida in 2003 to take a job with the Nielsen ratings company. Bored with gathering statistics, he started hunting around the Internet for things to do, he told South Florida Gay News in 2012. His own appetite for entertainment inspired Mark’s List, which grew from free suggestions about events and places to a popular subscription site.
Haines, who was born in Michigan, said he caught the bug for adventure after moving to Europe in junior high.
“One of my favorite memories is sneaking into a nightclub in Russia when I was only 14 years old,” he told South Florida Gay News.
In 2009, he teamed up with print publisher Bobby Blair to buy out two bankrupt South Florida magazines and create the first dual online and print package for the LGBT community with the creation of the Mark’s List magazine. The two split on friendly terms in 2012, Blair said.
“He had a great passion for digital media,” Blair said. “A real champion of South Florida was taken way too soon.”
A champion of many causes, Haines had long supported The SMART Ride, Lang said. But Haines struggled with his weight. Late last year, he vowed to get in shape and, in January, joined a gym and hired a trainer. He quickly shed about 50 pounds, Lang said, and started training for the two-day, 165-mile ride.
“He had never been an ounce of athletic whatsoever, and all of a sudden he found his talent,” Lang said.
On Friday, the first day of the ride, he clocked one of his best times, Lang said. His brother, James, had traveled to Florida to ride with Haines and, at dinner, Haines was “amazing and bragging. He was beaming ear to ear.”
The brothers decided not to get a room at Hawks Cay, where the ride’s festivities were based, and ended up staying about four miles away, Lang said. They had trouble finding a cab to the resort before dinner. So when the ceremony ended, Lang said Haines decided to walk back to the motel. His friends and family did not discover he had been killed until early Saturday morning, when he failed to show up for the final leg of the ride.