Community rallies following tragic youth UTV death

Miguel Hernandez GoFundMe: Miguel Hernandez, 12, tragically died in a UTV crash on Saturday.

Three were injured, one fatal in Saturday UTV crash in Fort Thomas during 8th-grade graduation party

By Jon Johnson

FORT THOMAS – In times of need, the Gila Valley stays strong and the community rallies to those tragically affected. And now, the community of Pima and Fort Thomas mourn the passing of one of its middle schoolers, Miguel Hernandez, 12, who tragically died Saturday in a UTV crash in Fort Thomas, while others attempt to recover from both physical and mental trauma. 

A GoFundMe has been created to assist the family with funeral and other expenses. 

Miguel died Saturday after being thrown from a UTV during a rollover in the area of Black Rock Road and W. Hinton Road in Fort Thomas. Authorities were dispatched to the area at about 1:47 p.m. Two other juveniles were transported by ground ambulance to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center. One of the juveniles was then flown from there to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson for further treatment of serious injuries. 

The crash is under investigation by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office and an autopsy was scheduled to be performed by the Pima County Office of Medical Examiner. From a preliminary report from the scene, it appears that Miguel died from wounds to his head.

According to Sheriff’s Office reports, the three youths had left an 8th-grade graduation party in Fort Thomas in a green Polaris Ranger to go use a restroom because the one at the party was being used. The owner of the Razer allegedly told a deputy that he gave permission for one of the juveniles to use the vehicle and was unaware that the other two had joined him.

The juvenile who was sitting in a middle seat was injured only with road rash to his upper body and told a deputy at the scene that they were southbound when a northbound vehicle went into their lane. The youth said they attempted to avoid the vehicle and when doing so flipped the UTV and rolled repeatedly. The youth said he couldn’t remember the make or model of the vehicle. The reported juvenile driver was injured with road rash and lacerations and managed to speak to a deputy at the scene briefly and described the same thing. The reported driver was having a hard time breathing at the scene and was later flown to Banner – UMC Tucson.

Several people stopped to help the youths but none saw the crash or the cause and had all come upon afterward, according to their statements to law enforcement and the Gila Herald. One person first on the scene put the two youths in her car to await paramedics as she called 911.

Fort Thomas Fire Department responded to the scene, as well as the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Miguel loved playing sports, especially baseball – according to his friends and relatives. Personally, I remember him wowing me on the soccer field during town youth play several years ago.

From Miguel’s GoFundMe page organized by Heather Udall: “Now, as we face the unimaginable pain of saying goodbye to Miguel, his family is grappling with the overwhelming burden of funeral expenses. As a community, we have the power to alleviate some of their financial strain and provide them with the support they need.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Miguel Hernandez tries to bend it like Beckham on a corner kick in this November 2018 soccer photo.

Please consider making a donation, no matter how small. Together, let us rally around Miguel’s family and demonstrate the power of community in times of darkness. Your contributions and support will serve as a beacon of hope, providing comfort and strength to those affected by this profound loss.

May we find solace in the memories of Miguel’s infectious laughter, his love for life, and the impact he made on each and every one of us.”