BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. – A skydiver 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. The team is comprised of seven men, all originally from Cuba. Perdomo said Hernandez had been jumping for 30 years. To honor their friend, Team Eagle wants to see a competition jump in Starke.
“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.”
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.
“And the very last jump that they were doing, one of the skydiver’s chutes didn’t deploy fully,” Smith said. “We had it on video where you can see where he released that chute and was trying to open a secondary chute and wasn’t able to get it open in time.”
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
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.
“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.
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:
According to Smith, there were over 150 people, including civilian volunteers, who assisted in the search.
Off Road United Foundation is 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.