JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Fire Rescue Lt. Mario Moya, a 17-year veteran of the department, has passed away from COVID-19, JFRD confirmed Wednesday morning.
The agency released a statement reading in part:
“It is with profound sadness that we announce the line of duty death of JFRD Lt. Mario J. Moya of Rescue-42-B. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lt. Moya unselfishly served this community while continually exposing himself to the very virus that cost him his life.”
Moya, 51, leaves behind his wife and three children.
It’s not clear how long Moya had been battling COVID-19, but JFRD said their health and safety officer spoke with him in the hospital just a few days ago and said Moya felt great and was looking forward to going home.
“He was the guy who always stood in the background, never wanted the credit, but he always made sure the job got done,” said Chief of Rescue David Castleman, who worked with Moya for three years.
Moya was honored Wednesday afternoon with a procession of law enforcement and JFRD vehicles that escorted his body from Baptist South hospital to a funeral home in Riverside.
Following tradition for honor processions, two JFRD boats sprayed jets of water as the procession passed along the Fuller Warren bridge.
After Moya’s procession, Castleman said he took his job seriously and was an excellent firefighter.
“He embodied what this department is. We are public servants and, the men and women, they do their best to help everybody, no matter what their need is and he did it with professionalism and class,” Castleman said.
JFRD said Moya is the first in the department to die from COVID-19. Currently, the department has 46 members in quarantine and of the 46, 32 are positive for COVID-19.
The President of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters said the revolving door of cases explains the high risk their men and women face every day.
“Lt. Moya every day was probably responding to someone suspected of COVID or was COVID positive,” Fire Union president Randy Wyse said. “The adjustment has been continuous for a year and a half. It started out one way and as we progressed we change it.”
The department encourages its members to get the vaccine, but there’s no word if Moya did. We were told that’s a family matter.
Mayor Lenny Curry extended his condolences on social media.
“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Lt. Mario Moya and the entire JFRD community. Lt. Moya was a dedicated public servant who consistently showed up to selflessly help others during this pandemic. His heroic actions have touched the lives of many in our community,” Curry wrote.
Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced soon.
We’re told Moya was in the Navy and will be buried at a National Cemetery.