JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The 56-year-old CEO of UF Health Jacksonville, who was lauded for his efforts in response to COVID-19, died in an accident involving a personal watercraft vehicle, officials said.
Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr. was ejected from a personal watercraft in Palm Beach Inlet on Saturday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.
Haley was found in the water wearing a life jacket and was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries, wildlife officials said.
The day before his death, Haley held a conference call with elected officials and community leaders in Jacksonville to report that the current wave of COVID-19 cases was not showing any signs of breaking, The Florida Times-Union reported.
He said during the call that overcoming vaccine hesitancy is a challenge even among the hospital’s thousands of employees, the newspaper reported.
In December, UF Health Jacksonville was the first hospital in the area to receive shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine. Haley was the first in line there to get the shot, the newspaper reported.
He and other hospital CEOs met regularly with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, collaborating on pandemic response and encouraging the public to get the vaccine.
He had three children: daughter, Nichelle, and sons, Wesley and Grant, who is a cornerback for the New Orleans Saints.
UF Health released the following statement following his death:
It is with great sadness we share that our CEO and dean, Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, has passed away unexpectedly. Dr. Haley was a strong, inspirational leader and beloved son, father, friend and colleague. We ask that you keep his family in your prayers and thoughts.
We ask that you respect the privacy of Dr. Haley's family, friends and colleagues at UF Health.