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Nassau County communities remember longtime friends killed after deer darts in front of SUV

Ransom Anderson went to Yulee High School and BJ Johnson attended Fernandina Beach High School, but the two met in middle school and remained close

Two young Nassau County men killed in crash to avoid deer
Two young Nassau County men killed in crash to avoid deer

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – There is a growing memorial of flowers and balloons at the site where two Nassau County young men in an SUV were killed early Saturday morning when troopers said the driver swerved to avoid hitting a deer and crashed into a tree.

Ransom Anderson, 18, and Brian “BJ” Johnson, 20, died in the single-vehicle crash. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the driver, a 19-year-old Yulee man, and another passenger, a 19-year-old Fernandina Beach man, were taken to a hospital.

According to the Highway Patrol, the driver was heading south on U.S. 17 near County Road 108, just south of Interstate 95, about 12:40 a.m. Saturday when he swerved to avoid hitting a deer. Troopers said the Ford Explorer then went off the road and struck a tree.

It’s a tragedy that has impacted both the Yulee and Fernandina Beach communities -- where Anderson and Johnson grew up and went to school.

Brianna Cole, Anderson’s mother, said one of the last conversations she had with her son involved his excitement about his career and future.

“The last time I saw my son, I’d recently started my own business, and he was looking forward to working for me,” Cole said. “We were going to do this together.”

Anderson would have celebrated his 19th birthday this month.

“Ransom was great,” Cole said emotionally. “He was very kind and tenderhearted. He was a momma’s boy, we were incredibly close.”

Anderson was also battling a rare form of leukemia. Cole said they were treating it, and her son had good and bad days.

“If all had gone well, and the tragic accident hadn’t have taken his life, there’s no reason to think that the cancer would have,” she said. “It was not anticipated to shorten the longevity of his life.”

Anderson went to Yulee High School and Johnson attended Fernandina Beach High School, but the two met in middle school and remained close.

Friends of Johnson said he was the class clown who never took life too seriously.

“He is the funniest person that I’ve ever known,” said Nealey Daniels, who met Johnson in her freshman math class. “No matter what, he always brought a smile to someone’s face. You never saw him in a sad moment.”

Another friend, Thomas Wright, said he grew up with Johnson, who lived with him for a time. He said Johnson was like a brother.

“He was just goofy,” Wright said. “If you told him not to do it he did it anyway just for the laugh of it.”

Anderson and Johnson were in the SUV with two other close friends at the time of the crash. The driver received minor injuries, and the other young man was still in the hospital at last check.

On Sunday night, the Yulee and Fernandina communities came together with a bonfire at Peters Point Park to honor Anderson and Johnson and pray for the recovery of their two friends.

The FHP report shows it’s unknown whether Anderson and Johnson were wearing seat belts. Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, according to the Highway Patrol.

“Unless you’re in that position, you don’t know what you could do,” Anderson’s mother said. “And we don’t know what the answer’s going to be. Whether you swerve right, left, or go straight -- no one knows those answers. It was just an accident.”

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