This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Putnam and St. Johns counties each saw an additional coronavirus related death over the weekend, bringing the death total for both to six. Flagler is at five deaths. Florida Department of Health in Putnam County said the sixth victim is a 63-year-old Palatka man. Other cases reported over the weekend a 30 year-old Palatka woman and a 41-year-old San Mateo woman. Both had contact with a confirmed case. Number of cases for Putnam is 152. S. Johns County is at 260 cases. Flagler County is at 189.
Fallout from the murder of a man by a police officer in Minneapolis led to protests around the country and general condemnation of the officer’s actions by fellow policemen nationwide. Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach and police chiefs from Palatka, Welaka and Crescent City gathered Friday in Putnam to say officers should be held accountable and would be throughout Putnam. A protest was held Saturday in Crescent City and officials reported about five people took park. In St. Augustine hundreds reportedly rode in a car caravan from ML King Avenue to the Plaza de la Constitucion on Sunday. Some remained to stand by the Bridge of Lions with signs.
Florida Highway Patrol reports a young woman was struck by a tow truck on State Road 16 in St. Johns County late Saturday. The tow truck was eastbound on 16 just west of Collins Avenue when the driver struck an 18-year-old. She was tending an animal on the road when she was hit. She died at the scene. No charges are pending, according to FHP.
A Crescent City man who died early Friday morning has been identified as Ryan Stoltz, 34. Florida Highway Patrol says Stoltz was headed north on U.S. 17 in Satsuma when he failed to make a curve and struck a tractor heading south. The 49-year-old Weirsdale man driving the tractor suffered no injuries. The accident is under investigation.
Today marks the first day of Hurricane Season. A tax-free holiday on certain hurricane supplies is in effect through Wednesday. Items on the tax-free list range from bungee cords to batteries to generators under $750.
An 80-year-old Palm Coast man apparently drowned Friday morning at Flagler Beach, according to law enforcement. The man was at the beach swimming alone and was spotted by a fisherman near 14th Street. Flagler Beach and Flagler County paramedics responded and the man was taken to AdventHealth Palm Coast. His name was not released.
Longtime Palatka businessman and Putnam supporter Dick Westbury, 84, died Saturday. He was a strong backer of ideas to help the county including the annual celebration of the district’s top 50 scholars. For 25 years before his retirement he was co-owner of Palatka Printing and Webb-Westbury and Associates.
While graduation ceremonies have been cancelled or delayed in most area counties. seniors from Matanzas High and Flagler Palm Coast High schools as well as First Baptist Christian Academy had the ceremony of a lifetime Sunday. Some 1,000 members of the Class of 2020 wearing caps and gowns and joined by their families revved their car engines and drove across the finish line at Daytona International Speedway. The district worked out a deal with the France family and NASCAR to make it happen. On hand was Jim Tager, the district’s retiring school superintendent who is headed to Vermont to take over a superintendent’s job there. Tager made good on his promise graduation would happen. In Putnam in-person graduations are now set for August. Most St. Johns County high schools have already held their graduations virtually.
Talk about a lucky fellow. Jim Darlington, curator of reptiles at St. Augustine Zoological Park and Alligator Farm, was grabbed by an alligator Friday while in a canoe at the attraction. He was pulled into the water by the 12-foot gator but broke free and got to land where he was taken to Flagler Hospital and required stitches. Darlington had gone out to retrieve a photographer’s tripod when the alligator grabbed him by the elbow. Zoo officials think the alligator probably though a baby bird had fallen in the water from the rookery overhead and grabbed Darlington. The alligator will be left in the swamp since he was just behaving naturally, say officials.