Cancer claims life of Ponte Vedra High principal

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Long-time Ponte Vedra High School principal Craig Speziale died Saturday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was 52-years-old.

Christina Langston, Director of Community Relations for the St. Johns County School District, confirmed Speziale's death to First Coast News.

"He was an inspirational leader for teachers and students. The school has lost someone very special. He embodied the professionalism and dedication to not only open Ponte Vedra High School in 2007, but he encouraged students and staff to believe they could accomplish anything," Langston said.

Langston said the crisis team, which consists of counselors and district staff, will be at the school Monday morning and for as long as needed to support students, staff and administration.

World's best golf destinations: Vote for your favorite

Voting ends Monday at noon in USA TODAY's 10Best Readers' Choice contest for 'Best Golf Destination.' The contest coincided with the 2014 Masters at Augusta National. 20 golf destinations, each of which has at least one supreme public course, were chosen by an expert panel. Panel members were USA TODAY golf writer Steve DiMeglio; pro and former PGA champion Rich Beem; golf pro Olle Nordlund; and USA TODAY sports staffer and avid golfer Tyler Kupper.

The public can vote once a day until Monday at noon. To vote or see all the nominees, click here or visit

Here's the full list of nominees:

Bandon, Ore.

Coeur D'Alene, Idaho

Whale washes ashore in Ponte Vedra

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A humpback whale has washed ashore in Ponte Vedra Beach near Mickler's Landing.

According to Nadia Gordon with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the humpback whale is 31-feet long and badly decomposed.

A crew from FWC was collecting samples from the body Saturday afternoon, and plans to anchor the whale overnight in order to complete the autopsy Sunday.

Gordon said humpback whales wash ashore in northeast Florida about once every 1-2 years, so it is somewhat rare.

Friday in Jacksonville beach a dead dolphin washed ashore in Jacksonville Beach.

Breaking ground for assisted living in Ponte Vedra

PONTE VEDRA, Fla. -- A new assisted living facility and nursing home will be built at 405 Solana Road on a 4.5 acre lot in Ponte Vedra.

Friday, there was a ground breaking for the facility that will be called the Palms at Ponte Vedra.

It's located between TPC Sawgrass and the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club.

The new facility is expected to create 150 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs when it is at capacity with senior residents.

Steve Sell is the Managing Partner with Solana Capital Ventures, the project's developer. He said he hopes the facility will fill a need in Ponte Vedra for quality senior care.

The $14.8 million project will include an
84,000 square foot building that will have two stories with 24 memory beds and 70 assisted living beds.

Mother says her child witnessed her classmate's accident at bus stop

UPDATE 3/27/14: Eight-year-old Grace Barmad was released from the hospital late Wednesday and diagnosed with a concussion. Her parents say she is very sore and has significant bruising all over her body.

Her mother and stepfather say she is in good spirits overall and feel fortunate because things could have been a lot worse.

Grace's stepfather, Ty Votaw, said this is a lesson to us all to be more mindful of school buses. Grace's mother said Grace is concerned about the 17-year-old who put her in the hospital as he was probably just as scared as she was.

Original story below:

8-year-old hit by car going around school bus

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- An 8-year-old Ocean Palms Elementary School student was hit by a car after getting off the school bus on Tuesday afternoon.

A 17-year-old driver is facing charges after he allegedly failed to stop as children were exiting a school bus in the 100 block of North Roscoe Boulevard at 3:20 p.m., according to a report from the Florida Highway Patrol.

The teen struck the 8-year-old girl and sent her to Wolfson Children's Hospital in serious condition, according to the FHP report and Jeremy Robshaw with St. Johns County Fire Rescue. First Coast News has reached out to Wolfson for a condition update on the child.

Social media tip yields arrest for ATM tampering

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A woman was arrested after allegedly tampering with an ATM thanks to a tip from social media.

Emily Rosati Gravitt, 33, is charged with criminal mischief and attempted burglary to a business after she allegedly tried to force an automatic teller machine open at Regions Bank on Ponte Vedra Park Drive on Saturday.

According to a release from the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, a citizen was able to identify Gravitt after SJSO posted surveillance footage on its social media channels.

The citizen reported the tip to Northeast Florida Crime Stoppers and Gravitt was later arrested without incident.