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Matt Gaetz to honor local hero who saved toddler in automobile crash

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Pellicano with Kaysin’s family (Photo via

North Florida Republican Matt Gaetz will honor a local sailor who saved the life of a child involved in an automobile accident.

Gaetz, who represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District, will give special recognition in a ceremony Monday for Petty Officer First Class Joseph Pellicano of Pace, a city in Santa Rosa County.

On Jan. 16, Pellicano was on his way to work at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field near Milton, when he passed a car accident and noticed a woman, Rebekah Willis, bloodied from the crash.

Before first responders could arrive, Pellicano stopped and rendered aid to the woman, discovering her child, 17-month-old Kaysin Willis, was also bloodied and showed no vital signs. Pellicano immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and successfully revived the child.

According to, the child was transported to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and admitted to the infant/toddler intensive care; he was diagnosed with a fractured leg, internal bleeding and severe brain swelling from a traumatic brain injury.

The youth was placed into an induced coma to produce necessary healing.

Since then, the child has made a full recovery.

Gaetz plans to recognize Pellicano for “courageous and noble actions” during a ceremony at 3 p.m. in the board chambers of Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building at 221 Palafox Place in Pensacola.

Immediately before the ceremony, Gaetz and Escambia County commissioners will hold a special board meeting on the OLFX land exchange.

In 2015, Escambia County entered into a land exchange agreement with the United States Navy Department, with the county agreeing to construct a new outlying land field in Santa Rosa County, in exchange for an existing OLF in the county, which would then be developed into a commerce park to create new jobs.


Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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