A special tactics airman at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was killed late Tuesday night when he was run over by a tour bus in Tennessee.
Staff Sgt. Jorge A. Hernandez, 26, of La Quinta, California, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, died Tuesday in Nashville. The incident remains under investigation.
Hernandez enlisted in February 2012 and was assigned to the 23rd STS at the end of his two-year combat control training program, according to a news release from the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt.
“Jorge was a gregarious individual. Always laughing, smiling and trying to cheer people up around the squadron," said Maj. Steven Cooper, commander of the 23rd STS, in the release. "He was the guy who everyone knew because of his spirit and liveliness.
"This is a tragic loss to the special tactics community and our thoughts are with his family, friends and teammates at this time.”
Hernandez and his team of special operations air traffic controllers deployed to nearby Tyndall Air Force Base in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael to open air traffic for mobility aircraft, which brought supplies and equipment for the base and surrounding community.
Hernandez and a few members of his team then opted to stay in Panama City and went house-to-house asking residents what help they needed, according to a report in the Desert Sun, a newspaper in Palm Springs, California, near the airman’s hometown.
That’s the kind of person he was, according to family and friends, who are struggling to understand the circumstances of his death, the Desert Sun reported.
Police in Nashville said that at about 11 p.m. Tuesday, Hernandez tried to get into a Dodge Sprinter van at a downtown lot, according to a report in the Tennessean newspaper.
The van was in use by a tour group, and the driver told Hernandez he didn't belong, police said.
Hernandez then allegedly asked the driver of the van if he wanted to fight, the Tennessean reported. The driver told police he closed the sliding side door, but Hernandez hopped on the running board and tried to open the door as the vehicle pulled away.
The airman then apparently fell and was run over by one of the van’s rear tires, according to the initial police investigation.
The newspaper reported that the driver told police he was unaware 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.
Hernandez was an accomplished wrestler and competed in the 92 kg (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.
The staff sergeant spent his free time in the local community coaching young children and adults in wrestling fundamentals. He was awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for his service to the community.