Friends Pay Tribute to Tree Trimmer's Family at Fundraiser

Tree trimmer Luis Hernandez, 26, was killed on Nov. 24 in Valley Center after he was struck by a car while pulling branches out of the roadway

Friends of an Escondido tree trimmer struck and killed by a car while pulling branches out of a roadway honored their friend in a generous way as they raised money for his surviving girlfriend and 1-year-old daughter. 

"I want everyone to remember him as a happy, outgoing guy," said Jonathan Villalobos. "His charisma was just amazing. He was just a unique friend."

According to California Highway Patrol (CHP) officials, Luis, who worked for Davey’s Tree Service, was trimming trees along the shoulder on Cole Grade Road at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Just as Luis was pulling branches out of the roadway, a 34-year-old man behind the wheel of a 2004 GMC Sierra struck him. The car was traveling between 35 and 40 mph at the time of the collision, CHP officials said.

Luis did not survive the impact and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Friends held a barber shop fundraiser in Vista Sunday, with all proceeds going to the 26-year-old's family. 

"This is the least we could do for him, 'cause I know he deserved way more than this," said Villalobos.

Mike Brogan, who stopped by the fundraiser, donated $100 to the family. 

"He was young he had kids, and I have kids, so I sympathize," Brogan said. "You know, it's hard, hopefully it will help the family out. Cause it's hard when you have kids without a parent, it's hard."

A viewing for Luis will be held Monday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at McLeod Mortuary in Escondido. A funeral Mass will be held Tuesday at 1 p.m. at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Valley Center. 

The accident is under investigation, but CHP officials said alcohol and drugs were not factors in the deadly crash. Investigators said Luis walking into the path of the vehicle in the southbound traffic lane and the driver could not avoid hitting him. The driver remained on scene and cooperated with investigators.

It is unknown, at this point, whether that driver will face charges in the fatal accident.

For Luis’ heartbroken family and friends, the pain of the accident is too much to handle.

In an exclusive interview with NBC 7, Oscar Hernandez said his brother, who was 26 years old, leaves behind a girlfriend and a 1-year-old daughter, as well as devastated parents and two siblings.

The family believes the driver who hit him was traveling at much higher speeds than reported by the CHP. Oscar told NBC 7 he feels there should’ve been more safety measures on the roadway that day to keep his brother and other workers safe.

Luis’ co-worker, Francisco Lopez, spoke with NBC 7 Wednesday and described the horrific accident. Lopez was standing just feet away from Luis when he was hit by the GMC.

“I’m going back and I hear a big noise and I called his name, and [I hear] screaming. And I look, and my friend is over there,” Lopez recalled.

NBC 7 reached out to Davey’s Tree Service Wednesday for a statement but did not hear back. Previously, just after the accident, the company issued this statement:

“At this point, our primary concern is for the family and other employees working in that area. This is a tragedy for the entire Davey family and our thoughts and prayers are with employee’s family, co-workers and loved ones.”

Luis’ family is pleading for more answers as to how, exactly, this accident happened. They said they were told the driver was distracted because he was swatting away a bee at the time of the crash.

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