The Voice of the Gem City

News May 18, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

An early morning crash on Interstate 95 in southern St. Johns County left one person dead. Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the accident that happened near mile marker 301 just before 5 a.m. this morning. An SUV driver hit a box truck parked along an I-95 rest area exit. The SUV ended partially under the truck, which was pushed forward into the rear of a semi, according to FHP. The SUV caught fire and St. Johns County Fire Rescue was called out. Both truck drivers were asleep in their vehicles when the accident happened. Major slowdowns were reported as morning commuters headed to work.

Flagler County officials and the owners of a horse therapy program are trying to work things out to keep the facility that helps disabled veterans and children with various disabilities in operation. The county commission was to vote on granting a permit or closing the facility on John Anderson Highway Monday evening but the item was pulled. Officials say one possibility getting serious consideration is a public-private partnership. The five-acre, five horse facility has been in operation about 14 years. Some neighbors led by former State Attorney John Tanner have led an effort to close the facility.

Putnam County is looking for two new department heads after the executive director of planning and development services and the executive director of human resources and administrative services turned in their notices. Planning director Jim Troiano and human resources director Angela Nelson both are leaving for other jobs although they’re not yet saying where. Final day for both is May 28. Temporarily County Administrator Terry Suggs will fill in for Troiano and Deputy Administrator Julianne Young will handle Nelson’s duties.

Florida Forest Service continues to fight a large fire in Watson Island State Park in northern St. Johns County. Firefighters worked through the night to contain the fire that by last night had burned about 675 acres and was then 75 percent contained. When first reported around 3:30 p.m. Monday the fire had burned 100 acre. By 7 this morning officials said more of the fire was under control and mop-up operations, re-established lines and burnout operations were underway.

A celebration of the life of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, who was murdered last week, will be held tonight at 5 p.m. at Celebration Church at 9555 R G Skinner Parkway in Jacksonville. The Bailey family has approved this gathering and friends and the public are invited to remember the girl who lived in the Durbin Creek area in northern St. Johns County. Services will be telecast on WJXT. Charged in her death is Aiden Fucci, a 14-year-old classmate from Patriot Oaks Academy. The attorney who has represented him since his arrest, Anwar Snober, has filed a motion to withdraw as counsel.

Florida Department of Health in Flagler County reported two new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing the total since counting began March a year ago to 7,394 cases. During that time 110 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported. Putnam County reported six new cases for a total of 6,607 cases. Total number of deaths is 153. St. Johns County reported 13 new cases for a total of 22,925. Total number of deaths for the period is 214.

A look back at the historic hotels of Palatka is the subject of Putnam County historian Larry Beaton’s presentation to the Fruitland Peninsula Historical Society tonight at 7:30 p.m. The meeting is on Zoom and open to the public. To join the meeting, contact Tim Earle at

Congratulations to a couple of Melrose anglers who won this year’s Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament in Palatka on Saturday. Will Scaife and Brandon Waters ended up with the $10,000 top prize. It was their 10th time fishing at the tournament now in its 32nd year. Wolfson was also a winner. They’d hoped to bring in $400,000 and went over that by more than $26,000. Tickets are still available for the bass boat, trailer and motor drawing set for May 22.

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