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Navy sailor killed by falling tree branch during Tropical Storm Elsa

A file photo of Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Levon Johnson. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
July 09, 2021

Deshawn Johnson, a U.S. Navy airman stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Fla., was killed on Wednesday as Tropical Strom Elsa made landfall this week.

Johnson, 26, was killed when a tree fell on his car during the storm, First Coast News reported Thursday.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said 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. The sheriff’s office 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 but sustained damage to their windshield.

First Coast News reporter Haley Harrison tweeted photos of the accident. “FATAL ACCIDENT: We’ve been going live in Ortega on the intersection of Roosevelt Blvd. and Yacht Club Rd. where @THEJFRD says at least one person died after a tree fell. Northbound lanes on Roosevelt are blocked off while crews work in the area. #FCNStorm@FCN2go.”

A spokesperson for NAS Jacksonville confirmed the deceased man was a Navy airman.

Naval Air Force Atlantic Office told First Coast News they could not immediately provide the airman’s name. In a statement, the Navy command 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 Navy command did not immediately identify him by name, and family members and friends were the first to identify Johnson as the man killed.

In a Friday press statement, a spokesperson for Naval Air Force Atlantic did officially identify Johnson was the man killed. The Navy office identified Johnson as an aviation ordnanceman airman (AOAN) at the rank of E-3.

“The War Eagle family mourns the tragic loss of our shipmate,” said Cmdr. Timothy Campbell, commanding officer of VP-16. “Airman Johnson had a lasting impact on our squadron and we wish his family healing and peace during this incredibly difficult time.”

Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 16 (VP-16), the “War Eagles,” operate P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

Johnson’s decorations included the Navy “E” Ribbon, which is presented to members of Navy units who have won a battle efficiency competition. Naval Air Force Atlantic noted the awards and citations currently listed in Johnson’s Official Military Personnel may not be complete.

Johnson’s uncle, Shyhein Jackson, said his nephew had a passion for cars and his military service but was 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 told First Coast News. “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 told 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.”