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5 counties head back to school on Wednesday

The summer is over for students in five counties who are heading back to school on Wednesday. 

Putnam, Nassau, Baker, Bradford and St. Johns counties open the doors for students. 

Action News Jax has the latest back to school information and resources online and follow Action News Jax Twitter @ActionNewsJax  for more. 


Jacksonville Zoo welcomes birth of endangered Bonobo

An endangered Bonobo was born over the weekend at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Zoo officials said the male Bonobo was born August 6, which is the eight Bonobo born at the Jacksonville Zoo. 

The male was given the name, Budir, which has a special meaning to his keepers. 

The young male will be on exhibit with mother, Kuni, and other members of the group at least part of each day, zoo officials said. 

Photo by Lynde Nunn



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Parents urge drivers to slow down on Race Track Road, where 3 schools are located

Five local school districts go back to school Wednesday, including 37,000 students in St. Johns County.

On Tuesday, parents were at Fruit Cove Middle School for an open house. We asked them about any concerns going into the school year. Many did express some safety concerns with Race Track Road and their students having to walk right by it.

The normal speed limit 45 mph, but motorists routinely go faster than 60 mph. In the school zones, the speed limit is 35 mph. 

Race Track Road is home to 3 schools: Julington Creek Elementary, Fruit Cove Middle and Durbin Creek Elementary, but some parents say drivers treat this road like their own race track.

Several students will be walking and riding their bikes to school along Race Track Road starting Wednesday.

“People think that this is a street that they can just go by really fast, so anything that can slow them down … will help a lot, you know?” said parent Roberto Sanchez.

The school district requires that students who live within two miles of their school get to school on their own. We drove down the stretch ourselves.

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“There are plenty of crossing guards and the crossing guards do a really great job here in St Johns County,” said parent Sarah Carl.

But parents are hoping drivers do their part, too.

“Just to heed the speed limits. Just to realize that these are kids. They know the rules and they're going to try but they're kids,” said parent Rebekah Sanchez.

And for students who do ride the bus, the school district said new this year they've installed new radios in all of the buses. That way, the bus driver can better communicate with law enforcement for any problems along the road.

Those radios were paid for with the county's new half-cent sales tax.

1 of 3 new St. Johns County schools will open on schedule

Only one of three new schools that St. Johns County promised to open for the 2017-2018 school year is on track to be up and running on time.

The schools are being funded by a half-cent sales tax increase, which became effective in January.

Since then, $5.5 million has come in, but construction has started only on an elementary school in World Golf Village.

Construction at World Golf Village


School rendering in World Golf Village


Construction on two K-8 schools in Nocatee and Aberdeen has not yet begun.

“It was ambitious,” said St. Johns County Schools superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner. “Unfortunately, on the K-8 bid, we only got one bidder. So that wasn’t fiscally responsible for the board to accept one bid. So that will go out for re-bid.”

Joyner said the delay will mean larger class sizes for another year.

“We will continue to be more crowded than we would like. We may have to have a few more portable classrooms for a year,” said Joyner.

St. Johns County father Crispin Zinsmeister said he thinks keeping class sizes down is crucial to his children’s education.

“I think that kids getting individual attention is very important to the education process, so the more schools, the better,” said Zinsmeister.

The sales tax increase is also paying for new safety and security improvements, including 250 800-megahertz radios for all the county’s school buses. The radios will allow drivers to communicate directly with law enforcement in an emergency.

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Aberdeen school rendering


51 birds seized in alleged cockfighting ring in Jacksonville

Dozens of birds were seized on Tuesday night at a home in the Dinsmore neighborhood near New Kings and Bowie roads in an alleged cockfighting ring.

Agents with Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services seized 51 birds. Equipment, including steroids, was also taken from the home. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office responded as well, as crime scene unit vans were parked along the road.

A tip led officials to the home and Timothy Prosser was arrested on a felony charge of animal fighting. One woman may end up being arrested as well, police said. The birds will be evaluated Wednesday morning, and no dead birds were found in the home.

Once the birds are checked out they will be placed in refuges.  

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#anjaxbreaking animal protection seizes 51 fighting birds, equipment, steroids from alleged cock fighting ring— Cole Heath (@ColeANjax) August 10, 2016 1 arrest made. Birds will be evaluated in the morning. No dead birds found after tip leads officials to new kings road home.— Cole Heath (@ColeANjax) August 10, 2016

Action News Jax photographer helps save man's life in Washington D.C.

An Action News Jax photographer did more than cover a story; he got into the middle of the story and helped save a man’s life in Washington D.C.

He did CPR on a man having a heart attack this weekend and now Action News Jax’s Brandon Bryant says he has a friend for life.

Steve DeLuca is recovering after suffering a massive heart attack. Bryant was right there and rushed over to help.

Bryant, who was in town for the National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists joint conference, said he and another woman gave CPR to DeLuca for about 15 minutes until rescuers arrived and took him to the hospital.

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Tuesday, DeLuca had surgery to put a defibrillator in his chest. Action News Jax is told the father of three has a long road ahead but he is expected to recover, something Bryant is happy to hear.

“I am looking forward to the phone call to the family to kind of see how he's doing. You know, I have a friend for life is how I look at it,” Bryant said.

A close friend of DeLuca’s was working with him at the Marriott Wardman Park in DC when he had his heart attack. The friend told Action News Jax he’s trained to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED, something that he said wasn’t available at the Marriott.

We have reached out to the Marriott Wardman Park for a statement on their policy regarding AEDs.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for DeLuca and his family.

Authorities believe missing Tenn. toddler may be headed to Fernandina Beach

Investigators are asking the public to be on the alert for a missing child that could be in Northeast Florida.

Deputies in Tennessee released new information on 2-year-old Skyla Wilson. Deputies believe Skyla is with her non-custodial father and the pair could be heading to Florida.

The toddler was last seen on Sunday with her 35-year-old father Michael Wilson. The Bradley County Sheriff’s Department said Wilson does not have custody of his daughter and they believe she’s in danger.

Deputies say Wilson picked the toddler up on her birthday last Thursday, but didn’t return his daughter home at the agreed upon time. Wilson was last seen driving a 2014 Kia Soul crossover.

The sheriff’s department said Wilson could be driving to beach towns in South Carolina or Florida, including Fernandina Beach and Orlando. They’re now asking for people living in those areas to be on the lookout for this missing little girl.

“I hope somebody sees this and picks up the phone and says we know where this child is,” said Sheriff Eric Watson. “It would make it easier on everybody to know this child is in safe-keeping.”

Wilson’s Kia soul was last seen Friday in Calhoun, Ga., at a truck stop's ATM. If you have any information on where Wilson and his daughter are, you’re asked to contact law enforcement. 

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2 Molotov cocktails found at National Guard Armory in St. Augustine

Multiple agencies are investigating after two Molotov cocktails were found in a St. Augustine parking area. 

The investigation began after a suspicious fire was reported at the National Guard Armory on San Marco Avenue.  An employee doing rounds Tuesday morning found the Molotov cocktails, as well as a towel or cloth hanging out of the gas tank of a Humvee, said St. Augustine Police Officer Jeff Truncellito.

In addition to the St. Augustine Police Department, the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, State Fire Marshal's Office, FBI, NCIS, ATF, FDLE are investigating. The State Fire Marshal's Office is the lead agency. Action News Jax was told the police report on the incident will be available on Wednesday morning and that no surveillance video was available from the incident.

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Crime scene tape is blocking off a large portion of the National Guard Armory. @ActionNewsJax— Kaitlyn Chana (@KaitlynANjax) August 9, 2016 Witnesses tell me they saw a lot of police & fire crews at the National Guard Armory this morning. @ActionNewsJax— Kaitlyn Chana (@KaitlynANjax) August 9, 2016 BREAKING: St. Augustine fire department tells us this is a law enforcement situation. @ActionNewsJax— Kaitlyn Chana (@KaitlynANjax) August 9, 2016 BREAKING: State Fire Marshal tells us multiple agencies on-scene investigating a fire in the parking area. @ActionNewsJax— Kaitlyn Chana (@KaitlynANjax) August 9, 2016 BREAKING: Our sources are telling us someone may have tried to set the National Guard Armory on fire. @ActionNewsJax— Kaitlyn Chana (@KaitlynANjax) August 9, 2016

Jacksonville officer involved in crash on Blanding Boulevard

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is responding to a reported officer-involved crash at Blanding and Cedar Hills boulevards.

JSO said those injured in the crash have minor injuries.

Action News Jax has a crew headed to the scene. Watch CBS47 Action News Jax at 11 and refresh this page for the latest information.

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St. Augustine family's minivan hit by lightning while driving on I-4

Mother Nature is unpredictable and a St. Augustine family had an unimaginable close encounter with her strength.

Tina Lewis received the biggest jolt of her life when lightning hit her family's van and two other cars on I-4 near Lakeland last month.

“It was an instantaneous flash of light and thunder,” said Tina Lewis. “My husband realized we have no power steering, we couldn’t brake and we had no acceleration. We had nothing."

Lewis’ husband Chris was driving. He said the odds were in their favor and miraculously nobody was injured.

“What are the odds to get struck by lightning?” he said.

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All three cars were zapped and one of them took the brunt of the hit.

Lewis told us the vehicle that was immediately next to them had a hole in the roof where the antenna was and the entire back window was shattered by the strike.

The family’s Honda Odyssey shared 93,000 miles by a family of five.

Now, the only keepsake they have of the car is the 8th seat that they took out before the incident occurred.

Recently, their minivan was claimed as a total loss. From the exterior, the van appears to be fine, but the family say the lightning surge fried the electronics.

“If you looked at a picture of our van from the outside there is no burn marks there,” said Chris Lewis.

For Tina, she’s glad her husband didn’t crack under pressure.

“First off, I married the right guy. You never know what’s going to happen under pressure until it happens. He remained remarkably calm.”

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