Missing swimmer identified after body found on beach

Swimmer went in water to help family member, deputies say

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The identity of a missing swimmer whose body was found on the beach Monday morning in St. Johns County has been identifed by deputies.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said the victim, 29-year-old Robert Hickson, of Jacksonville, was found Monday morning in Ponte Vedra Beach, about a quarter-mile north of where Hickson disappeared Sunday evening.

He was found about 1.5 miles south of the north parking lot of Guana State Park, deputies said.

Law enforcement agencies started searching again at first light Monday morning for Hickson. They were patrolling the shoreline and found a man dead on the beach. 

According to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, the body is believed to be Hickson, but the body was taken to the Medical Examiners Office for an autopsy and positive ID.

The Coast Guard said Hickson went under just after 6 p.m. while swimming in the ocean near the north end of Guana State Preserve and never came back up.

Deputies said Hickson was with family members on the beach at Guana on Sunday when another family member appeared to be in distress in the ocean. Hickson went in the water to help, but went under and disappeared, according to witnesses.

Fire rescue said it received a call stating a young woman watched her brother disappear underwater.

The Coast Guard launched rescue crews aboard a 29-foot response boat from Station Mayport and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Savannah. The Sheriff's Office, St. Johns County Fire Rescue personnel and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers helped in the search.

Detectives are investigating the incident.

Firefighters said Sunday was a calm day but anything could happen at the beach.

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