JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man killed by a falling tree branch on Wednesday as Tropical Storm Elsa moved through North Florida was an active-duty Navy airman stationed at Naval Station Jacksonville, according to a public affairs officer for the base.
A public affairs officer for the Naval Air Force Atlantic also told News4Jax on Thursday that the man was assigned to the “War Eagles” of VP-16, which flies and maintains the P-8A Poseidon aircraft, at NAS Jacksonville.
“It is with a heavy heart we can confirm that a Sailor assigned to Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 16 died after the servicemember’s car was struck by a tree. Initial reports suggest that the tree fell as a result of severe weather associated with Tropical Storm Elsa. Our thoughts and condolences are with the family, friends, and squadron of our Sailor,” reads a statement from the public affairs officer.
The man was identified by family as Deshawn Johnson.
“He was a loving father husband son brother friend. He was a friend to everyone. He knew how to bring everyone together,” his wife told News4Jax.
Dylan Galman, a sailor, attended boot camp with Johnson.
“He was a special kind of person,” Galman said of Johnson. “He is truthfully one of those people that wanted to better everybody and push them to be the best they can be.”
Galman said his thoughts are with Johnson’s wife and children.
Loved ones say Johnson was a part of the Flawless Empire Auto Club of Jacksonville. The group posted on Facebook saying “long live Subzero.”
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, a Dodge Challenger and a Toyota SUV were driving north on Roosevelt Boulevard, just south of Yacht Club Road, in the Ortega neighborhood about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday when a tree branch hanging over the road gave way and struck both vehicles.
On Thursday, the base of the tree could be seen as crews cleared the shrubs and limbs off the sidewalk along Roosevelt Boulevard.
News4Jax was told Ferrovial Services was contracted to trim the branches. The group’s supervisor said the ground was saturated with rain, making it easy for the tree to lean, and the tree limbs weren’t hanging over the road before the storm.
People who travel Roosevelt Boulevard daily told News4Jax that it should’ve been trimmed ahead of time.
“But also the branches on the trees are weighed down and they always tell you to be cautious, but until the city comes and cuts them down, there’s nothing you can do,” said Frances Bowie, who lives in the neighborhood.
The tree isn’t on anyone’s property.
A man took News4Jax through his backyard to see the base. When it snapped, he said, it sounded like lightning. He said he went to check it out and he saw it on top of one of the vehicles.
Another neighbor told News4Jax that they’ve complained to the city about the tree before.
A celebration of life for Johnson will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at 6219 Roosevelt Blvd. Family and friends will hold a balloon release near the ABC liquors.