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3 first responders in Florida die of Covid within 3 days as it grapples with new surge

A Florida sheriff said Covid-19 has killed over 300 law enforcement officers, making the disease "by far the biggest single cause of line-of-duty death."
Fireman Scott Allender; Police Officer Justin White; Deputy Craig Seijos.
Fireman Scott Allender; Police Officer Justin White; Deputy Craig Seijos.Melbourne Fire Dept.; Port Orange Police Dept.; Orange County Sheriff's Office

Authorities in central Florida say the state's latest Covid-19 surge is having a deadly impact on the state's first responders, claiming three of the public servants' lives last week.

The three men — a firefighter, a sheriff's deputy and a police officer — all died within three days of one another, NBC affiliate WESH of Orlando reported.

Driver Engineer Scott Allender died Tuesday "after battling COVID-19 since early July," the Melbourne Fire Department said in a statement.

"Scott Allender was an important and vibrant member of the Melbourne Fire Department and will be dearly missed by all who knew him," Fire Chief Chuck Bogle said. "Our deepest sympathy is extended to the Allender family."

Craig Seijos, 54, a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, died Thursday.

The sheriff's department said in a statement that Seijos had worked there for nearly three decades.

"Craig dedicated much of his life to serving the residents of Orange County," Sheriff John Mina said. "We will always be grateful for his service and he will never be forgotten.

"Deputy Seijos was a dedicated family man who adored his wife and five adult children," Mina said. "His colleagues say he was an extremely generous person and was always willing to donate to a good cause. Deputy Seijos also never shied away from a healthy debate."

And the Port Orange Police Department posted that Officer Justin White, 39, died from Covid-19 on Thursday.

The police department said White, who is survived by a wife and four children, was "a dedicated husband, father, and a fierce advocate for the officers he worked alongside."

Mike Chitwood, sheriff of nearby Volusia County, sent condolences after White's death, saying in a tweet that over 300 law enforcement officers have died because of Covid-19, making it "by far the biggest single cause of line-of-duty death."

"More than the senseless murders we see all too often," Chitwood wrote. "May Justin White rest in peace, may his family find the strength & support they need to carry on in his memory."

Florida's latest Covid surge, fueled by the contagious delta variant, is having a devastating impact on unvaccinated communities. A church in Jacksonville this month said six of its unvaccinated members died from the virus within 10 days of one another.