BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. – A skydiver from Miami who was practicing for a weekend event that honors the families of fallen police officers died Friday when his parachute didn’t deploy correctly during a jump, according to Maj. Brad Smith with the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office.
Nick Perdomo with Team Eagle identified his teammate as Yuset Hernandez, 51, according to WPLG sister station News4Jax. The team is comprised of seven men, all originally from Cuba.
Perdomo said Hernandez had been jumping for 30 years.
“Skydiving was one of his passions. He loves fishing, and his life with his daughter and grandson that he leaves behind in Cuba,” said Perdomo. His teammates said Hernandez was the first Cuban to win a medal in the United States for an accuracy night jump. He was born in Cuba and moved to Miami in 2003.
“We just wanted to give back thanks to law enforcement,” said Perdomo. “Yuset was very big into what he considered his country and this was a way of giving back — to jump with flags on behalf of all the fallen officers.”
Skydiving Team Eagle based in Miami came to Starke to jump in Krawl’n for the Fallen event which honors families of fallen police officers. 51-year-old Yuset Hernandez died after parachute malfunctioned. He leaves behind a daughter and grandson in Cuba where he’s from. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/jPz60V42ce— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) November 14, 2020
Smith said the Sheriff’s Office and Bradford County Fire and Rescue were sent to search a wooded area surrounding the Keystone Heights Airport at about 5 p.m. Smith said a skydiving team that was participating in the Krawl’n for the Fallen event was doing practice runs.
After a few hours of searching a wooded area surrounding the property, rescue crews announced sometime after 8 p.m. that the skydiver’s body was located.
The Krawl’n for the Fallen event runs throughout the weekend. Hernandez was honored Saturday morning when his team received a folded flag during the event’s opening ceremony.
A statement on the Krawl’n for the Fallen Facebook page reads:
"Today at Krawl’n for the Fallen we suffered a horrible tragedy. During routine sky diving practice for tomorrow’s opening ceremony one of the jumpers had an issue with his primary parachute. He cut away and deployed the second but landed in very dense overgrowth area. We had boots on the ground within seconds and many responses from multidisciplinary agency’s including Shands Air. Video footage from the jump was able to help the emergency crews narrow the grid. He was located and it was announced he had passed from his injuries.
We want to thank everyone that helped with the rescue and recovery. The sky diving team 100% want to jump tomorrow and honor their friend. We are hoping to make that happen for them. Please join us in sending prayers and sympathy to his family and friends.Krawl’n for the Fallen
According to Smith, there were over 150 people, including civilian volunteers, who assisted in the search.
Off Road United Foundation was expecting up to 2,500 people for the weekend event, which features off-road trails and obstacles. Dozens of people were camped out with Jeeps and off-road vehicles on Saturday, including multiple law enforcement agencies, as well as survivors and family members of fallen officers.