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Fernandina Beach police ID man lost in surf

Man, 32, is 3rd person swept away by rip currents since Memorial Day weekend

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – A man who went into rough surf off Fernandina Beach on Saturday afternoon to save his niece and nephew was identified Monday as Steve Shaw of Valdosta, Georgia.

Shaw, 32, has not been found, police said.

Shaw arrived at Main Beach with family and friends about 45 minutes earlier and his teenage relatives, who could not swim, were walking in knee-deep water when they were knocked over by a large wave.

Witnesses said Shaw went into the water and was overwhelmed by the surf. He disappeared underneath the water and did not resurface.

He is the third person from out of state to be swept away by the ocean from local beaches since Memorial Day weekend. George Cooper, 52, and Na'im Boykin, 11, were also visiting from Georgia when they were swept out by rip currents off Little Talbot Island.

Steve Shaw
Steve Shaw

Shaw's niece and nephew, along with two friends, were rescued by lifeguards and police. The niece and nephew were taken to the hospital to be checked out, then were released.

Fernandina Beach police and Beach Ocean Rescue, the Nassau County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Coast Guard searched for Shaw for several hours on Saturday and again early Sunday.

Police put up the family in a local hotel Saturday night, but they returned to Valdosta on Sunday.

"We will continue to search the waterfront in hopes that Mr. Shaw's body will be recovered," Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley said in a statement.

The day before he was swept out into the ocean, Shaw posted an update to his Facebook page, telling his sister how much he loved her and that he would do anything for her.

"It's a tragedy. It's really sad when nature takes over, when bad things happen," said Lesley Curry of Saltwater Cowgirls Surf Camp. "I believe they panic and so they don't understand what to do."

Curry teaches young surfers what to do in dangerous surf and rip currents, something with which a lot of people, especially those new to the beach, are not familiar.

"The No. 1 rule: Stay calm, and then understanding what to do," Curry said. "Swimming parallel to the beach, swim to the side, and if they are on a surfboard, that's the best flotation device that they have, so (we aim for) really teaching them and equipping them with the skills to be confident and stay safe in the water."

Orange flags were flying Monday on Main Beach , where Shaw was last seen, warning beachgoers that the ocean was rough.