Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nassau Man Added to List of Irma Deaths

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nassau Man Added to List of Irma Deaths

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

A death in Nassau County is one of three fatalities added to the state's official tally of those related to Hurricane Irma, bringing the total so far to 69, according to the Florida State Emergency Operations Center.

Still, none of the deaths statewide confirmed by medical examiners as caused by the hurricane appear to include the 14 residents who died before or after evacuation from a sweltering blacked-out Broward County nursing home.

Medical examiners' offices statewide handle all death investigations and they are the only agencies that can officially attribute any death to the storm. But those deaths don't necessarily have to occur during the actual storm to count.

A death weeks after a person is injured by a tree blown over during Hurricane Irma can still count as a "direct tie-in," if that is what their autopsy uncovers, said Chief Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, whose office handles Duval and Nassau counties. But a full autopsy with toxicology tests and a separate death investigation can take days or weeks to be completed. Only then can a death be attributed to the hurricane and reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, then tallied by the State Emergency Response Team.

Nassau County's only hurricane-related death was confirmed two weeks after Irma. And it was caused by a falling power pole, Sheriff Bill Leeper said.

Timothy Scott Rowland Jr., 24 of Fernandina Beach, was cutting down a tree Sept. 26 with two other men in the 700 block of Geiger Road when it fell the wrong way, according to the official report. The tree hit a power service line, breaking the pole it was attached to. The broken pole hit Rowland in the head, Leeper said. Taken to Baptist Medical Center Nassau with critical injuries, he died the next day.

As for the five Duval County deaths already listed by the state as Irma-related, a police report now sheds light on a fourth one.

The medical examiner's office released final reports on three of them as of last week. One died Sept. 15 as he worked on a hurricane-damaged fence, the autopsy relating the cause of death to the hurricane. …

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