Man, 64, dies after loader overturns into river, family says

2 children remembering Ted Deese as loving father who loved the water

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 64-year-old man died after the front-end loader he was operating overturned into the St. Johns River on Sunday, according to his family.

Ted Deese was moving sand on his waterfront property along Heckscher Drive when the heavy machinery overturned and the loader went into the river, with Deese trapped inside, his children said.

Paramedics responded and performed CPR, before taking him to an area hospital, where his family said he died. 

Deese's two adult children, Sean Deese and Kelley Elmore, told News4Jax on Monday that their father lived his life around the water.

"He was kind of born in the St. Johns River, lived in the St. Johns River and died in the St. Johns River," Sean Deese said.

The two remembered Deese as a loving father who was always smiling. He had worked in construction from the age of 14 and had a girlfriend of 15 years. The children said their father's favorite place was anywhere near the water.

"If he wasn't working, he was on the water -- whether it be on his sailboat or fishing," Elmore said. "He got both of us certified in scuba diving."

His daughter said she’s still coming to terms with what happened.

“I think I’m still in shock, to be honest," Elmore said. "I was looking at his pictures last night and thinking of memories and things that we did and I just wanted to call him and tell him about it. And then you realize you can’t.”

Deese’s son and daughter said they’re now following their father’s example to get through their grief.

“He always found a brighter side to every situation. It’s something that he passed down to us and it’s something that kind of helps us get through these dark times," Sean Deese said. "We always kind of find something we can smile about or something we can joke about.”

His children called what happened a tragic accident. They said they're working to make funeral arraignments.