Fla. deputy dies from COVID-19 complications
Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala was a 14-year veteran of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Two South Florida law enforcement officers died Saturday from the coronavirus, both men in their 30s who provided proof that the disease can claim anyone.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala, 38, had been dealing with other health issues before he was infected with the virus, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office.
His death came after the announcement Saturday morning of the death of Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Shannon Bennett, who died a week after being diagnosed with COVID-19 at age 39.
The men became two of the youngest people to die of the coronavirus disease in Florida. Only 4% of the patients who have died were younger than 45, according to the state health department.
Ayala was the youngest to die in Palm Beach County. His survivors include two sisters, three daughters and his parents, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“Ayy my brother. You know the pain I feel,” his sister, Yinalis Diaz posted on Facebook. “You’re my hero. You were always looking out for me. You were the only best brother in life...I have lived many terrible things but no pain compares to your departure."
Grisel Pineda, who is Diaz Ayala’s ex-wife, said he was a devoted father to their three children, Laylanny, Gianna and Bianca.
The girls “were everything to him and he is their hero,” Pineda said. "This has been the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. All the girls are grieving so differently right now. He is going to be deeply deeply missed.”
Pineda said she didn’t know how Diaz Ayala contracted COVID-19. She also said he had asthma.
“I’m not sure where he could have gotten this, it’s unclear," Pineda said. "He had asthma and had issues with sugar levels on and off. He was a great guy and had a big heart.”
A photo on the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office Facebook page shows emergency responders at JFK Hospital along with a gurney covered by the American flag and a photo of Diaz Ayala.
“We love you and know you are all doing the very best,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote.