JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Naval Air Force Atlantic Office is mourning the loss of one of its own.
A spokesperson for the air squadron confirmed Thursday a Navy sailor died after a tree fell on his car in Jacksonville Wednesday during Tropical Storm Elsa.
According to a spokesperson from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the man was an airman who was stationed at NAS Jax.
The Naval Air Force Atlantic Office said it couldn't yet provide the airman's name, but family and friends identified him as 25-year-old Deshawn Johnson.
Johnson’s Uncle Shyhein Jackson says he had a passion for cars and serving his country, but Johnson was always a husband and father first.
“He had a daughter and a son he loved so much. It’s all he ever talked about. And he did everything he could to provide. He set an example for his son by joining the military," Jackson said. "I just feel so sorry for his kids. I know they’ll be proud when they hear the stories of the person he became.“
Johnson's wife also sent a statement to First Coast News.
"He was a loving father, husband, son, brother and friend. He was a friend to everyone. He knew how to bring everyone together," she said.
In a statement issued Thursday, a commander at Naval Air Force Atlantic said:
“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 falling 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.”
The service member was assigned to the “War Eagles” of VP-16 at NAS Jacksonville. VP-16 flies and maintains the P-8A Poseidon aircraft and their mission is to provide maritime patrol services to the fleet in support of national interests, according to the commander.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday a Dodge Challenger and a Toyota Highlander were traveling north in the 4900 block of Roosevelt Boulevard in the Ortega area around 3:30 p.m. when a branch fell.
JSO said the Challenger’s roof was ripped off by the branch and Johnson was killed by the impact.
The driver of the Highlander wasn’t hurt.
Sharkela Scott, Monte Williams and Darryl Walker were in the same car club as Johnson, Flawless Empire Auto Club of Jacksonville.
“Out of all people, how did his car just his car get the immediate impact," Scott said.
"You know, I'm thankful that the other person is very alive and good and they just got the damage to their, to their to their windshield, but we definitely lost a brother who cared for a lot of people, and people care for him," She added.
The club members said they went to the scene afterwards and instantly knew it was Johnson's car.
“I arrived first. I just dropped. I mean, I couldn't take it, I dropped," Williams described.
“We could clearly see the Flawless Empire symbols that we all have on our cars, the decals. And the moment I saw it, I just knew it was his car," Scott said.
Johnson's friends said he was one of the most selfless, caring people they knew.
“He'd give you the shirt off his back. Anything you needed him to do. You asked, he'd do it. He is just that loving, caring person," Williams explained.
“People like that don't come around too often – who just be so upbeat on life and legitimately wanted good things for everybody else. That’s why it hit us hard," Walker said.
Flawless Empire Auto Club met Thursday night to remember Johnson.
The group has planned a balloon release for Johnson this upcoming Sunday, Jul. 11 at 4:00 p.m. The community is invited to join them at 6219 Roosevelt Blvd.
“It’s terrible," JSO Lieutenant Bouye said Wednesday.
"It really is, it’s a freak accident. It’s an act of God. Whatever you want to call it. It comes down and hits the car perfectly, and it’s going to end this young man’s life," Bouye said.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said at a press conference Wednesday night he believed the incident was the only known fatality from Elsa. Curry and other city officials extended their thoughts and prayers to the airman's family Wednesday night.