Florida assistant coach, Special Tactics airman run over in Nashville

Staff Sgt. Jorge A. Hernandez

Former California high school wrestler. Silver medalist at the Junior Olympics. Assistant high school wrestling coach in Florida. Special Tactics combat controller for the U.S. Air Force.

All these attributes describe Staff Sgt. Jorge A. Hernandez, who was killed when run over by a tour bus in Nashville on New Year's Day evening. He was 26.

At the time of his death, Hernandez had served with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron headquartered at Hurlburt Field, an Air Force facility located in the western Florida panhandle. He also served as an assistant wrestling coach at nearby Fort Walton Beach High School for five years.

In reporting on his death, the Air Force Times described Hernandez as "an accomplished wrestler who competed in the 92-kilogram (203-pound) weight class of the 2018 Armed Forces Wrestling Championship in February at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He wrestled on both the Air Force and Armed Forces teams for several years."

Prior to enlisting in the Air Force in February 2012, Hernandez wrestled at La Quinta High School in La Quinta, Calif. in the Palm Springs area. Hernandez helped the Blackhawks win a pair of CIF championships. He also won an individual CIF title and was a State qualifier, according to the Desert Sun newspaper.

After graduation from La Quinta High in 2010, Hernandez attended College of the Desert and was a wrestling coach at La Quinta and Shadow Hills High.

According to multiple media reports, Hernandez was attempting to board a tour van at a downtown Nashville hotel at about 11 p.m. Tuesday but fell off the outside step of the Dodge Sprinter van and was run over.

Here's how the Nashville Tennessean described the incident:

"The victim tried to get into the van with the tour group, but was told by the driver he didn't belong, police said.

"Hernandez asked the driver of the van if he wanted to fight. The driver told police to close the sliding side door and the 26-year-old apparently got onto the van's running board and was trying to open the door as the vehicle pulled out of the parking lot.

"Hernandez apparently fell from the running board and was run over by one of the van's rear tires, according to the initial investigation.

"The driver continued and told police he was unaware that Hernandez had been run over. The driver and his passengers returned to the scene a short time later after being located by officers.

"The driver showed no signs of impairment and is cooperating with investigators, according to police.

"The local Medical Examiner is conducting toxicology tests to determine whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the incident," according to the Tennessean.

The incident is still under investigation by Nashville Metro Police.

News of Hernandez's death hit those who knew him hard.

Tobi Marez, head wrestling coach at Fort Walton Beach High where Hernandez worked, told the Northwest Florida Daily News, "We're shocked. To our guys, he was more of a superhero. He was a great wrestler, a great personality -- just a loving guy.

"He was the type of guy that would give you the shirt off his back."

"He always put everyone before himself," Marez added. "He was the classic example of someone who put love before hate."

The Florida newspaper went on to describe Hernandez as "accomplished in both Greco-Roman and freestyler wrestling. He was a silver medalist in the Junior Olympics and recently was an alternate for the Air Force Olympics."

Hernandez's supervisor at Hurlburt Field also painted a positive portrait.

"Jorge was a gregarious individual. Always laughing, smiling, and trying to cheer people up around the squadron. He was the guy who everyone knew because of his spirit and liveliness," Maj. Steven Cooper, commander of the 23rd STS, told the website Air Force Special Tactics.

"This is a tragic loss to the Special Tactics community and our thoughts are with his family, friends, and teammates at this time."

The Air Force Special Tactics website went on to describe Hernandez as "a qualified military static-line jumper, free fall jumper, and an Air Force qualified combat scuba diver. As a Special Tactics combat controller, Hernandez was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery operations. He was skilled in reconnaissance operations and air traffic control."

Funeral arrangements have not yet been made public.

UPDATE 1/10/18

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover "resting expenses" for Jorge Hernandez.

Here's some of the text from that page:
"During this difficult time, the family is requesting assistance with expenses through this GoFundMe account. Any additional monies left over after all expenses and financial obligations have been accounted for will be donated, in Jorge's name, to a youth wrestling related organization."


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