Florida high school football coach Aaron Feis has been hailed as “hero” after he died of wounds sustained while shielding students from gunfire in a deadly attack that killed 17 people.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, South Florida on Wednesday local time.
Reports of Mr Feis’ bravery emerged on social media in the aftermath of the massacre, with the school’s football team tweeting that the coach was shot as he “selflessly shielded students from the shooter”. He later passed away in hospital.
“He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories,” the MS Douglas Football department tweeted.
One of the school’s football players, Charlie Rothkopf, tweeted that Mr Feis had provided cover for other students.
“Can everyone please take a second to pray for my coach today he took serval [sic] bullets covering other students at Douglas,” Mr Rothkopf wrote on Thursday.
Can everyone please take a second to pray for my coach today he took serval bullets covering other students at Douglas . pic.twitter.com/8AMG7t6tpH
— Charlie Rothkopf (@RothkopfCharlie) February 14, 2018
A former student at the school, Angelica Losada, wrote on Instagram that Mr Feis was a, “friend to all students that know him”.
Coach Feis graduated from the same school in 1999.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed the community had, “lost a football coach from Stoneman at this high school”, but did not release a name.
My heart is broken … I lost our baby girl
Student Jamie Guttenberg was one of the first confirmed fatalities, with local news outlet ABC News 10 reporting the teen had died in the gunfire.
Jamie’s father, Fred Guttenberg, confirmed his daughter’s death in a “violent shooting at her school” on Facebook, asking parents to to “hold your children tight.”
“My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school,” he wrote.
“We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister. I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family get’s through this.
“Hugs to all and hold your children tight.”
The Daily Mail reported the school’s athletic director, Chris Hixon, 46, had also perished in the attack, but is yet to be confirmed by authorities.
Authorities are yet to release the identities of the victims, as families continue to search for their missing children.