Friends and Family Grieve the Death of UF Innovation Academy Student

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A University of Florida student was removed from life support this weekend after sustaining fatal injuries in a car accident earlier this month.

A university memorial service is being planned for 3 p.m. on Friday, but the location is still being determined, according to an email newsletter from Jeff Citty, director of UF’s Innovation Academy.

Jerry DeClasse, 20, was walking along NE Waldo Road around 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 9 when he was struck by a vehicle. He was then taken to UF Health Shands Hospital in critical condition.

“His mother was understandably upset, ” said Darren Cohn, DeClasse’s former roommate who visited DeClasse in the hospital before he died. “She was begging the doctors for more time, but they were telling her it just wasn’t happening.”

Ben Tobias, Gainesville Police department spokesperson, said he doesn’t expect to see any potential charges for the 17-year-old driver who hit DeClasse.

“In our preliminary investigation we found that they did nothing wrong to cause the accident,” Tobias said. “There was nothing they could have done to prevent it.”

Tobias said updates will be available in a few weeks once toxicology reports are completed and other investigative procedures have been finished.

Cohn had been friends with DeClasse since they were roommates freshman year. Cohn described the final visit as emotional.

“They were praying, and they were singing hymns for him,” Cohn said. “Then everyone sort of got together and started telling happy stories about him.”

DeClasse was born in Haiti and later moved to Tampa, Florida, with his family. He was a UF psychology major and a well-liked student in the Innovation Academy.

Citty described DeClasse as quiet, but said he fit well in the start-up community and had a bright future ahead of him.

“He embodied everything that a student in the Innovation Academy should have,” Citty said. “He will be missed.”

About Nestor Montoya

Nestor is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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