JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A 27-year-old woman who was killed in a crash early Sunday morning in Jacksonville Beach was a kindergarten teacher who dedicated her life to education.
Bloneva Palmer was driving southbound on Third Street at 11th Avenue South when a car driven by 31-year-old Jonathon Groves crossed the median and struck her car head-on, killing her instantly. Groves later died at a hospital. Witnesses told police Groves had been driving recklessly, and police are trying to determine if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Palmer taught at Sadie Tillis Elementary School, and she was deeply missed as staff and students returned to school Monday.
"We loved her so much and, of course, we are all missing her," Marva Irizarry, Palmer's great aunt, said while crying.
Palmer's grief-stricken family prepared to go to the mortuary Monday to identify her body.
"She just brought so much joy," Irizarry said. "She was such a happy person, very creative."
Family members said Palmer was about 12 years old when she started volunteering with children. A letter went home Monday to parents of students at her school.
It reads, in part, "The Sadie T. Tillis Elementary School community is saddened by the death of one of our kindergarten teachers. ... School psychologists report that children usually go through the same stages of grief that adults do, however, they do not follow a specific pattern or order. As a result, we encourage you to talk to your children, to answer their questions honestly and simply. In addition, school psychologists recommend that you encourage them to write about and draw pictures of their feelings, and even allow them to vent feelings through artistic expression."
School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti learned about the news Monday morning.
"Anytime we lose an employee, especially someone working with children, it always leaves you sad, especially when you come in and find out about it over the weekend. It's really been on my mind," Vitti said.
Groves had a history of arrests. In 2010, he was arrested for DUI and was cited for not remaining under DUI supervision. Groves' license was canceled in April and was expired at the time of the crash.
Members of Palmer's family said they are praying for comfort in this time of grief.
"Jesus -- we are just going to pray and give it all to Jesus, and we're going to pray and be covered in the blood of Jesus," said Irinita Williams, Palmer's cousin.