News

$6K reward in fatal hit-and-run investigation

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The reward for information in the hit-and-run that killed a 15-year-old girl has been increased to $6,000.

Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida has increased the reward to help find the driver of the vehicle that hit and killed Haley Smith on Nov. 16, according to a release from St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Media Relations Officer Kevin Kelshaw.

Smith was walking with two friends in the area of Kenton Morrison Road and Four Mile Road around 8:30 p.m. that night.

Erosion makes homeowners nervous

VILANO BEACH, Fla. -- Some rapid erosion in Vilano Beach has homeowners worried.

The nor'easters this autumn really pounded the coastline. People who live on or near the coast estimate that about 5- to 8-feet of sand dune just disappeared over the weekend.
Now some houses are much closer than they were to the edge of a cliff.

"We've never had as bad as this. This is the worst we've had it," Scott Pacetti said. He lives on Vilano Beach and his walkway to the beach is about to give way after feet of sand dune underneath it has eroded.

One neighborhood beach access point across from Boating Club Road used to slope down and there were stairs going down to the beach. However, now those stairs are gone and a 10- to 15-foot cliff is there instead.

Linda Dettlings said, "It's awful. It's devastation."

St. Augustine man sets sail for trip around the world

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A St. Augustine man is on his way toward setting a new world record.

Dr. Stanley Paris, 76, sailed off in his sailboat at 7 a.m. Monday from the St. Augustine City Marina.

His goal is to sail around the world, or 27,000 miles, alone in less than 150 days.

The current record is 150 days, six hours and one minute. Paris is aiming for between 120 or 130 days.

If Paris is successful, he will be the oldest person to hold the new record by six years.

The founder and chancellor of the University of St. Augustine also hope to be the first to successfully make this trip using no fossil fuels.

Paris has green technology like solar panels, wind turbines and hydro generators on board his 63'8'' sailing vessel.

Weather delays bid for world sailing record

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A St. Augustine man planning to sail around the world in record time had to take a rain check Saturday.

Dr. Stanley Paris had planned to set out Saturday afternoon, but weather delayed his voyage until Sunday morning.

Saturday afternoon, Paris said "The weather is so rough at the inlet. The waves are ten feet high and it could dump my yacht onto the bottom between waves, and the tow boats say it's too risky to take me out." 

Aboard his boat named Kiwi Spirit, Paris will leave at 7 a.m. Sunday.

The 76-year-old told First Coast News his goal is to sail around the world alone, making him the oldest person to accomplish the feat.

He aims to finish faster than anyone else before him, breaking the current record of 150 days, 6 hours and 1 minute held by Dodge Morgan.

Paris wants to make the same trip, about 27,000 miles, between 120 and 130 days.

A fight to give fallen Irish solider citizenship

ST.AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- John Leahy is retired from the supermarket industry, but not from fighting for what he believes is due his fellow Irishmen.

Leahy was born in Kerry County, Ireland, and moved to the United States to make a better living.

"Back then when you were coming to the United States," said Leahy, "if you were between the ages of 20 and 25 you had to go to the American Embassy and swear that you defend the country or you couldn't get into the country."

During the late 40s and early 50s many immigrated here from Ireland and ended up on the front lines. Leahy was among those who served in the Korean Conflict.

"We were told that 90 days in the service and you automatically became a citizen," he said, "but Korea was classified a police action and wasn't declared a war and they say only in the case of war do they make you a citizen."

Michelle O'Connell story draws national attention

St. Augustine, Fla. -- Chrissy O'Connell says the wave of national media attention over her sister's death has been hard -- but rewarding.

"The
pictures were graphic and it was hard to look at," she says of the front page story in Sunday's New York Times. "But the truth was out
there, and I'm just grateful for news agencies that want to get the real
story out there."

The story, which First Coast News broke last August, moved to the national stage this week, with a joint investigation by the New York Times and the PBS show Frontline.

St. Johns crash leaves one critical

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- UPDATE, Tuesday: The victim was identified as Gary Alan Madeux, 71, of Jacksonville. Madeux is still hospitalized and is considered to be in critical condition, according to police.

The factors that caused the crash are still being investigated.

One person was left life-threatening condition after a single vehicle crash in St. Johns County Sunday morning. 

The crash occurred on Woodlawn Road near Heritage Park Drive around 10 a.m., according to St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. 

Deputies and Fire-Rescue crews arrived to find a person who was unresponsive.

The man was air lifted to UF Health in life-threatening condition, according to authorities.

The identity of the victim will not be released until investigators have notified next of kin. 

The investigation into the factors that caused the crash is ongoing, according to SJCSO.