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I-TEAM: Report details moments before, after WaveRunner accident that killed UF Health Jacksonville CEO

Witnesses say Dr. Leon Haley Jr. was with loved ones during accident

Dr. Leon Haley was the CEO of UF Health Jacksonville.
Dr. Leon Haley was the CEO of UF Health Jacksonville. (WJXT)

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – The News4Jax I-TEAM is piecing together what happened in the moments before a personal watercraft accident that killed UF Health Jacksonville CEO Dr. Leon Haley Jr.

On Tuesday, the I-TEAM obtained a crash report that reveals what witnesses saw seconds before he crashed into a jetty on Saturday while on a Yamaha WaveRunner in the Palm Beach Inlet and how the witnesses tried to help him immediately after the accident. More photos obtained by the I-TEAM show the WaveRunner lying on top of the jetty after the accident.

The I-TEAM also learned Haley has family in Palm Beach County.

Witnesses say Dr. Leon Haley Jr. was with loved ones during accident
Witnesses say Dr. Leon Haley Jr. was with loved ones during accident

In addition, the Palm Beach Police Department shared audio of a phone call that the agency had with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’ve got multiple units that are out with them. He’s unconscious at this time, the jetskier,” the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office can be heard saying.

Tim Palmer said he was fishing when with his friend Keith Cojocar when he saw the accident. He said he was thinking: “This is not going to be good.”

Palmer told authorities that Haley was out of control on the WaveRunner and crashed into the rocks, causing him to fly off and land in the water.

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Palmer and Cojocar said Haley’s loved ones -- a woman and young boy -- were on a different watercraft. It’s unclear the relation between Haley and the woman. Records show his sister lives nearby in Riviera Beach.

“She was distraught, hysterical,” Palmer said.

“My buddy helped the boy out of the water,” Cojocar said. “I believe we tried to get his view of the situation away because we didn’t want the boy to see what was going on there.”

The men said they, as well as the woman who was with Haley, jumped into the water to help him.

“She was right there on my shoulder every minute,” Cojocar said.

In audio of the call with the Palm Beach Police Department, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office can be heard saying: “We’ve got people trying to hold him above the water, but the current is strong.”

The report shows the men noticed Haley had a massive head injury.

“I prayed for the man while I was holding him,” Cojocar said.

First responders rushed Haley, 56, to a nearby hospital, where he died.

Records show the WaveRunner that Haley was operating was a rental. News4Jax reached out to the rental company, but it did not wish to comment.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, this is still an active, ongoing investigation.

News4Jax was told funeral services are expected to be in Pennsylvania, where Haley is from.

Cojocar and Palmer said they hope Haley’s loved ones can find peace.


About the Author:

Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.