Port St. Joe community mourns loss of two high school students

Published: May. 21, 2023 at 10:22 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A community coming together after tragedy.

T.J. Jenkins, 18, and Andrew Sheppard, 16, crashed on County Road 386 just after 11 p.m. Saturday night, according to Florida Highway Patrol troopers. Sunday afternoon, the doors to Port St. Joe High School were opened to let students gather and mourn.

“Our hearts are broken,” said Jim Norton, Gulf County Schools’ Superintendent. “It’s never good when the phone rings after midnight. Then you learn about the tragedy that took place right here in the heart of our county that took the two lives of two wonderful kids T.J. and Andrew.”

Norton says they made an early morning decision to open the school doors.

“We filled up a school today with people that want to be near and hug and vet it our hearts are broken because we know what the Jenkins and Sheppard-Haffleid families are going through,” said Norton.

The teens were both on the football team. Port St. Joe High School Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Tanner Jones coached both the boys.

“Two very good kids, people gravitated toward them liked to be around them they didn’t cause problems didn’t cause a scene,” said Jones. “The most important thing right now is for the families and loved ones and close friends’ people in community and school stay together and pray keep them in prayer that’s main goal right now.”

Students, staff and community members, gathering around to pray, offer support and remember their classmates and friends.

“Both those boys walked our halls played on the courts and fields they’re remembered as greats student athletes,” said Sissy Godwin, the Principal of Port St. joe High School.

Godwin says it was important they come together and share their love and support for their families.

“Those kids are such sweet spirit kids. Andrew little quieter than T.J. but the two of them both had sweet spirit and was loved by all classmates and teammates,” said Godwin.

Godwin says they will continue to remember the boys’ accomplishments at the school.

“Their relationships they built with the kids and staff, those relationships won’t disappear, and we will we continue to pray for their families and support them best we can,” said Godwin.

Two athletes who will never be forgotten.

“We’re gonna miss them we love them,” said Norton.

It’s that love that will help this close-knit community heal.