NAS JAX sailor identified as only known Elsa-related fatality in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — July 9 Update: The Navy released the following statement Friday:

“Airman Johnson had a lasting impact on our squadron and we wish his family healing and peace during this incredibly difficult time.”

A memorial event for Deshawn Johnson will be held on Sunday at 4 p.m. at 6219 Roosevelt Blvd.

Updated story:

25-year-old Deshawn Johnson was a loving father of two children. An incredible friend, husband, son, and sailor.

His wife tells Action News Jax, “He was a friend to everyone. He knew how to bring everyone together.”

And unfortunately, he was taken unexpectedly and all too soon.

Johnson had been driving his Blue Dodge Challenger when a tree fell on his car Wednesday night.

NAS Jax did not identify Johnson Thursday, but says “It is with a heavy heart we can confirm that a Sailor assigned to Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 16 died after the service member’s car was struck by a tree.”

We learned he was assigned to the “War Eagles” of VP-16 at NAS Jacksonville.

We were at the homecoming for the War Eagles back in November of 2020. Michelle Poitier leads a non-profit organization to support women veterans and women to find healing and support.

She also served in the US Navy for 13 years and says losing a comrade is like losing a family member.

“Though I didn’t know him personally, if you’ve ever served in the military when we lose one it is a personal loss,” explains Poitier.

And one of the most challenging parts, how unexpected it was.

“We expect when we are out to sea and serving our country that there is a possibility that we might not come home, but to have to regroup and continue to do the work we were called to do knowing that our comrade is not there, there are no words to describe the grief the pain, the frustration, and the anger.”

Original story:

On Wednesday a man became the only known storm-related fatality in the state after a tree branch fell on his car as Tropical Storm Elsa moved through the Jacksonville area.

The man was driving his Dodge Challenger on Roosevelt Blvd. in Ortega when the massive tree branch hit his car, killing him instantly.

Around the time of the deadly accident, Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh was tracking a cell of severe weather in the same area.

The Sheriff’s Office told Action News Jax there was nothing the driver could have done differently.

“This poor gentleman did nothing wrong,” a JSO spokesperson said. “He was just driving.”

The windshield of another car was shattered but the driver was not hurt.

On Thursday, family and friends identified the driver to Action News Jax as Deshawn Johnson, a father and U.S. sailor stationed at NAS Jacksonville.

While the military did not confirm Johnson’s identity, a spokesperson confirmed the victim of the fatal crash 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.

The Navy released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“It is with a heavy heart we can confirm that a Sailor assigned to Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 16 died after the service member’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.”

Photos: Remembering NAS Jax sailor Deshawn Johnson, killed by tree falling on his car




Samantha Mathers

Samantha Mathers, Action News Jax

Samantha Mathers is a digital reporter and content creator.

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