CALEB N. KING, LT, USN
Caleb King '12
Date of birth: September 2, 1988
Date of death: March 14, 2018
From The Orlando Sentinel on March 16, 2018
Port Orange native and former Central Florida high-school football standout Caleb King was one of the two crew members killed Wednesday [March 14, 2018] when a U.S. Navy fighter jet crashed off the coast of Key West, according to multiple sources.
King, 30, played football at Warner Christian Academy in South Daytona and later at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was a three-year starter at linebacker before graduating in 2012. He is survived by his wife, Victoria, and 15-month-old daughter Rain.
King was the weapons officer on a F/A-18 Super Hornet that was on approach to land at a naval air station around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when it crashed into shallow water about a mile east of the runway. Both crew members ejected and were rescued, but U.S. Naval Air Forces reported late Wednesday night that both had died. The crew was based out of Naval Air Station Oceana, in Virginia Beach.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The Navy has not released the names of those involved in the crash, but King's death was confirmed by his brother, Joshua.
Joshua King, who lives locally, spoke Thursday of treasured childhood memories of he and Caleb, racing go-karts and playing Pop Warner football growing up in Port Orange. Joshua, 31, said he never played in high school because of his grades and other personal struggles.
"I've been proud of my brother for God knows how long," Joshua said. "He had the heart and the determination to do whatever he wanted to do. He lived a very short life, but he lived a very full life."
Joshua said he attempted to reach his brother on Wednesday evening upon learning the crash involved Caleb's squadron. When Caleb didn't respond immediately, Joshua assumed it was simply a matter of protocol. He didn't know the truth until receiving a call from his father, Darrell, later that night.
"From the tone of his voice, I just knew that my brother was in that plane, and that he wasn't OK," Joshua said.
King was physically imposing. Listed at 6 feet tall and weighing 223 pounds in his playing days, he earned the nickname "Juggernaut" from his squadron since he needed to be measured to make sure he'd fit in the cockpit.
However, he was remembered as soft-spoken and kindhearted. Joshua said his younger brother and his wife often fed the homeless and spent time in orphanages in Nicaragua.
Joshua said Caleb remained humble, even as he was drawing attention from a handful of the nation's top football programs. During Caleb's senior year, Joshua recalls overhearing a phone conversation his brother had with former Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer.
"I was like, 'Well, what did he say?' and he said, '(Meyer) wants me to come play there,' " Joshua recalled. "It was crazy, like that it was no big deal."
King was a two-year starter for Navy at linebacker after playing part-time his sophomore year. His career totals included 61 tackles and one interception on Navy teams that were a combined 24-15 those three years.
Andy Price coached King throughout his time at Warner Christian before King graduated in 2006, and described King as someone that would "give you the shirt off (his) back."
Price learned of King's death around 4 a.m. Thursday. He said he woke up to several texts from his brother and a missed call from Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper.
"My heart dropped," Price said. "It's a tragedy. I feel for the family. It's a loss for me, and everyone that knew the kid. But I can't even imagine how they're feeling."
Price kept in contact with King during his time at the Naval Academy. He also received King's jersey from the 2009 Texas Bowl, a 35-13 win for the Midshipmen over Missouri. The framed jersey hung in Price's office for several years at Warner, and the coach still has it in his home.
"He was a kid that always did what he was supposed to do and was always somebody everyone else could look up to," Price said.
Former teammate John Seravalli remembers King as a player the Eagles relied upon. King rushed for 1,290 yards and 15 touchdowns while taking Warner Christian within one win of the Class 1B state finals. Seravalli recalls one victory in particular from that 2006 season. The Eagles, who played in Class 1B at the time, were outmanned by roughly 60 players against Deltona, a much larger Class 6A program.
That night, King tallied more than 20 tackles, recorded an interception and rushed for a touchdown.
"He was getting three yards after contact and falling forward for three more. He was a horse that night," said Seravalli, who played safety and quarterback for the Eagles. "When it was 14-7 and Deltona was in the red zone with about a minute left, he made a big stop that forced them to put the ball in the air. After one stop he made, I literally looked at the sky and said 'freakin' Caleb King, man' with a huge smile."
Current Atlantic High football coach D.J. Mayo is a former Warner Christian player, assistant and head coach. He was an assistant coach under Price during King's years at Warner.
"I thought he was a really special player," Mayo recalled. "He was a hell of a kid. Even when he was in middle school, he was always tough as nails. Sometimes kids are talented, but not coachable. He was definitely a very, very coachable kid."
Mayo said he last saw King during the spring football season in 2017. He said he received a text on Thursday morning telling him that King was involved in the crash.
"I just hate it," Mayo said. "He was so excited, the last time I saw him, about his future."
U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis, (FL-6), eulogized Caleb on the floor of the House of Representatives:
"Let Us Never Forget"
From the Facebook page "Let Us Never Forget":
On March 14, 2018, pilot LCDR James Brice Johnson (USAF 2007) and weapons officer Lieutenant King were killed in line of duty when their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed attempting a single engine landing after an engine failure off of the coast of Key West, Florida. Caleb Nathaniel King was born on September 2, 1988 in Port Orange, Florida to Robbin and Darrell King. In 2007, he graduated from Warner Christian Academy in Port Orange, Florida and then attended the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport Rhode Island before entering the United States Naval Academy.
Midshipman King was a member to the 13th Company and a linebacker on the Navy football team from 2009 to 2011. Midshipman King appeared in 38 games over three seasons. The 6-foot, 223-pounder started four games during the 2010 season and finished with 28 tackles. He was the primary backup at both inside linebacker spots as a senior and recorded 31 tackles. Midshipman King was a varsity letterman on the 2009 Navy football team that captured the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and finished 10-4 after beating Missouri in the Texas Bowl and the 2010 squad that went 9-4 and played in the Poinsettia Bowl. Midshipman King graduated in May 2012 from the United States Naval Academy.
Ensign King attend flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola Florida.
LTJG King was assigned to with Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) “Gladiators.”
In 2015, LTJG King was assigned Weapons System Operator Officer to Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213) “Blacklions” at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach Virginia of Carrier Air Wing Eight.
In 2016, LTJG King married LTJG Victoria E. Gonzales (USNA 2013) who he had met in an economics class at the United States Naval Academy. Together they had a daughter Rain Fury King.
In January 2017, Lieutenant King made a deployment aboard nuclear aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) as part of Carrier Strike Group Two in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 launches from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during exercise Saxon Warrior 2017.
On March 14, 2018, pilot LCDR James Brice Johnson (USAF 2007) and weapons officer Lieutenant King were killed in line of duty when their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed attempting a single engine landing after an engine failure off of the coast of Key West, Florida. Upon their final approach to Boca Chica Field at Naval Air Station Key West, the aviators ejected from the twin-engine jet, which crashed around 1630. An eye-witness reported mid-air explosion and flame causing the aircraft to turn to its side before dropping from the sky. Initial reports from the Navy stated that both aviators ejected but did not survive the low altitude crash.
Naval Air Station Key West is a training base for air-to-air combat fighter aircraft of all military services. Key West is less than 18 feet above sea level and the region provides singular views of the sky and horizon. The Navy described the base as having “perfect flying weather year round and unparalleled aerial ranges that offer aircrew training within minutes after takeoff.”
Lieutenant King’s personal decorations include the Air Medal, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service medal, Inherent Resolve Campaign medal, Global War on Terrorism Service medal, and Navy Sea Service Deployment ribbon.
Lieutenant King is buried in Cape Canaveral National Cemetery, Mims Florida, Section 5, Site 244.