Missing 14-year-old’s body found in Jacksonville Beach surf

The body of a teenager found on Jacksonville Beach early Monday morning has been identified as that of a 14-year-old who went missing in the ocean Sunday afternoon, police said.

Someone walking on the beach about 6:20 a.m. near 17th Avenue North found the body, according to Jacksonville Beach police.

Javier Darbin Cano disappeared in the ocean about 2 p.m. Sunday. Police said it took extra time to notify his family because they only speak Spanish.

Ocean Rescue crews, joined by Jacksonville Fire Rescue, searched for the teen, who goes by Darbin, Sunday afternoon and evening. He was last seen struggling about 15 yards from shore in an area known for rip currents.

When lifeguards entered the water, they lost sight of him.

Colleen Jones, who has stepped in as a spokeswoman and translator for Darbin’s family, said the teen had lived in Florida for 10 months with his father, who said they came from Guatemala to escape poverty.

The family rarely came to the beach, Jones said, and the teen’s mother had warned the family about being in the water.

“His dad called his mom again and she said, ‘You know, the beach cannot be safe. I don’t know why, but you need to take my son and leave the beach. It’s not always safe. He could drown,'” Jones relayed. “And the next thing you know, he looked up and he saw his arm go down. He threw his phone and raced out to find his son.”

Jaheen Patterson was one of the many people who also ran out to try to help Darbin. He said Monday that he was overwhelmed with pain.

“I wish I could have done more. I couldn’t do anything. All I saw was his hand, and that was it — that was hard on me,” Patterson said. “That was the first time I ever witnessed something like that.”

An intense search and rescue operation by lifeguards, state and local police and the Coast Guard lasted nearly two hours. They searched on water and by air, but could not locate the teen.

Officials said Darbin went missing in an area that does not have a lifeguard stand.

“God bless them. I pray for them. I can’t imagine losing a child at that age,” Jacksonville Beach resident Janet Elias said.

Darbin’s family is working with Jones and a local priest to help plan funeral arrangements for him and have his body sent back to Guatemala.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for the funeral.

Rip current risks

Red flags were flying, notifying beachgoers of the rough surf, and lifeguards were warning people all weekend to stay out of the water due to dangerous conditions, which are expected to continue through Tuesday.

Even strong swimmers are encouraged to stay out of the water, lifeguards said.

Ocean Rescue conducted 10 water rescues at Jacksonville Beach Sunday. Authorities said that’s an unusually high number of rescues for an October afternoon, compared with a Saturday in July.

“It’s been a lot worse lately. I’m guessing since the hurricane, maybe,” Elias said.

If the water becomes too dangerous, lifeguards can ban beachgoers from going in the water.

Lifeguards said those who want to swim in the ocean should always do so near a lifeguard. They are only on duty until 6 p.m.

Main Street Bridge closed nightly for next 2 weeks

The Main Street Bridge in downtown Jacksonville will close nightly the next two weeks as crews continue their work on rehabilitation of the structure, the Florida Department of Transportation said Monday.

Closures of the Main Street Bridge will follow the schedule below, as part of improvements to the mechanical, electrical and structural systems:

Monday, Oct. 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct.17 from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Wednesday, Oct.18 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Thursday, Oct. 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday, Oct. 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 25 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Thursday, Oct. 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.

During closures, both drivers and pedestrians will be detoured to the Acosta Bridge. Signs will direct traffic through the detour. Boaters will not be affected by the closures.

According to FDOT, the $10.7 million project is expected to be completed sometime this fall.

Top reason to worry about your teen driver: Passengers

Becoming a licensed driver is a key milestone for most American teenagers — and a source of dread for many of their parents.

While most teens can’t wait for the freedom of being behind the wheel on their own, parents know that freedom often comes with dangers.

Florida teens make up about 5 percent of Florida’s licensed drivers, but last year teen crashes made up 11 percent of all crashes, state statistics show.

Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, with more than 3,500 dying in 2016 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety decided to look into why so many teens are involved in crashes. Researchers found that about 60 percent of teen crashes are caused by distraction.

Those distractions range from talking to someone in the car (15%) or using a cellphone (12%) to singing or dancing (8%) and grooming (6%), according to information collected by researchers at the University of Iowa. They studied in-vehicle camera footage for 16- to 19-year-olds who participated in the study in 2013.

The researchers also found that looking at something in the car (10%) or outside the car (9%) and reaching for something (6%) also contributed to the distracted crashes.

A follow-up report in 2016 found that while the top distractions were unchanged from 2007 to 2015, a disturbing trend emerged in how teens are using their phone behind the wheel, AAA said. Teens were more likely to be looking down or operating their phone rather than talking or listening in the critical seconds leading up to a crash, data showed.

The study also found an increase in rear-end crashes and the average time drivers’ eyes were off the road.

“We do want to reach out to our youth, our young drivers,” Florida Highway Patrol Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan said. “If you are texting and driving, you are 20 times more likely to crash that car.”

When it comes to fatal crashes involving teen drivers, about a quarter of the drivers had been drinking, AAA found.

AAA encourages parents, educators and teens themselves to discuss the dangers of driving impaired and distracted. Here are some tips for parents and guardians responsible for young drivers:

Have conversations early and often about the dangers of underage drinking, impaired driving and driving distracted
Make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules against these dangerous behaviors
Stay engaged as teens learn to drive and monitor their activity to ensure safety
Teach by example and put safety first by not participating in these activities yourself

Arrive Alive

The We Arrive Alive campaign is highlighting National Teen Driver Safety Week from Oct. 15 to 21 to remind teens, and those in the car with them, to buckle up every time to Arrive Alive.

Without a seat belt, chances of dying in a crash almost double, according to state safety officials.

The campaign encourages teen drivers not to start the car until everyone has buckled up, and emphasizes that parents should set the example as they teach their teens to drive.

“Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash than anyone else on the road,” said Amy Stracke, managing director of traffic safety advocacy for AAA. “It is critical that during Teen Driver Safety Week, we focus on how this group can be safer both behind the wheel and as passengers.”

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles encourages parents and adults to take the time to talk with teenagers about the importance of buckling up and share that message with their friends.

Bryan said it’s never too early to teach teens to take responsibility when they’re behind the wheel.

“Communicate,” he said. “Talk to your family. Talk to your children. Talk to your children’s friends.”

For affirmative We Arrive Alive statements, shareable graphics and more, visit the DHSMV’s website https://www.flhsmv.gov/safety-center/driving-safety/teen-drivers/ and encourage teens to use the hashtag #WeArriveAlive throughout the week to add and share important teen driving safety information.

TeenDriving.AAA.com also has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the learning-to-drive process. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-vehicle coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges.

AAA officials suggest that teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.

Troopers and other safety experts will be touring local schools this week, putting on safety fairs for students. They will be at Creekside High School in St. Johns County on Tuesday.

Short staffing slowing patients from receiving IDs for medical marijuana treatment

Thousands of medical marijuana patients are currently caught in an awkward situation. They have been recommended for treatment, but they can’t start receiving medication until they receive an ID card from the state, which has been delayed because of short staffing.

Lauren Drake’s parents, both in their 70s, have been recommended for medical marijuana. Getting the recommendation has been far easier than getting the medicine.

“It took 50 days (for) an approval,” Drake said. “They still haven’t received their cards.”

Christian Bax, the director of Medical Marijuana Use in Florida, told lawmakers the ID card delay was running up to 30 days late.

Others, like Drake, said the wait can be two or three months.

“You know, if you’re sick, it’s a long wait,” Jeff Sharkey, with the Medical Marijuana Business Association, said.

Drake’s problem gets even more complicated.

“My mother doesn’t know what to go down and get from the one dispensary that we have in our location,” she said. “My father is not capable of going. I don’t know how, at this point, to go and get the caregiver card so that I can go.”

Drake said she can’t get a caregiver card because the state has yet to issue rules for getting them. She said the state isn’t focusing on patients.

“Why couldn’t my parents walk out and immediately go to the local dispensary and get medicine? I don’t understand what the holdup was,” Drake said.

The delay is shortening the time between patients visits to their doctor, increasing their costs.

When patients get a recommendation for medical marijuana, it’s good for nine months. The problem is that the clock starts ticking the day that recommendation is made, not when the card is issued.

The department is in the process of hiring a private vendor to issue ID cards, but the wait could get worse before it gets better.

Officials with the Department of Health said Monday afternoon it has 44,164 patients and 1,066 doctors. It has issued 21,873 cards to date.

Department officials also said their email can serve as a temporary card, but one Ft. Myers patient said his dispensary would not accept his email.