MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Lauded for his efforts in response to COVID-19, the CEO of UF Health Jacksonville died in an accident involving a personal watercraft over the weekend.

Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr., 56, was ejected from a personal watercraft in Palm Beach Inlet on Saturday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

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Haley was found in the water wearing a life jacket and was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries.

“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,” according to a statement from the hospital.

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.

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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.

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.

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CBSMiami.com Team