Rock Hill native killed in hunting accident

A post-Thanksgiving hunting trip turned fatal for a 28-year-old Rock Hill native.

Tello Vasquez was deer hunting in Willamsburg County, about two hours southeast of Columbia, on Friday morning when he was accidentally shot in the chest, said Lt. Robert McCullough of South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. He was buried in Rock Hill on Monday.

"No other mother could have asked for a better son," said his parents, Wells and Pam White, in a joint statement to The Herald. "He loved his family and friends with all of his heart."

The hunting trip was a tradition spanning a decade for Vasquez and friends, said lifetime best friend, Kinon Lecholop.

"Tello somehow ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he was hit at just the right angle," said Lecholop, who was with Vasquez Friday. "The wound eventually killed him."

Vasquez died as a result of that injury at Williamsburg Regional Hospital around noon Friday, said Willamsburg County Deputy Coroner William Horton III. The death was ruled accidental with no signs of foul play, Horton said.

Lecholop was holding Vasquez as he took his last breath, Lecholop said.

"His final words were, 'I'm going to be OK.' It's a way of allowing everyone else to know not to worry about him," Lecholop said. "I was thankful I could be there for him because I would have wanted him there for me."

Vasquez, who played soccer for Northwestern High School, was with about 15 friends on a farm outside of Kingstree on a man drive, which McCullough explained as a hunting tactic to drive deer toward hunters ready to kill them.

He went on the trip because of friends, not because he wanted to hunt, Lecholop said.

"That's the only day of the year he'll ever hunt," he said. "He enjoyed hanging out with us. He didn't care about shooting the gun or the deer stories. He enjoyed the time."

Lecholop, who has been friends with Vasquez since sixth grade, said his friend was a prime example of how bad things happen to good people.

"Tello is the nicest guy you'll ever meet; never scared or stressed. And if he was, he never showed it. He's a guy everyone loved," Lecholop said. "He never complained of anything. His wife, his family and his friends came first. He exemplified the words 'good buddy.'"

Lecholop said Vasquez was the happiest person he had ever met.

"He always had a smile on his face and had a laugh I'll never forget," he said. "I wish everyone could have been blessed to have known such a man. A part of him will always be in our hearts."

Vasquez, now of Charleston, graduated from The Citadel in 2001 and worked as a vice president of mortgages for Atlantic Bank and Trust. His wife, Candice, was presented with a South Carolina flag Monday at Vasquez's funeral.

"No other wife could have asked for a more wonderful and loving husband and best friend," Candice Vasquez said in an e-mail to The Herald. "I loved him with all of my heart."

DNR is investigating the incident, and no charges were filed as of Monday, McCullough said.