Crews search for missing swimmer off St. Augustine Beach

Strong currents over the weekend when 21 rescued along St. Johns County coast

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Jennifer Ready - Reporter, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. - Crews and marine units on Monday continued the search for a man who disappeared after going for a swim in the ocean off St. Augustine Beach.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office identified the missing beachgoer as 22-year-old Jacob Turner from Tampa. News4Jax learned he was visiting for the weekend with two friends.

"It was really tragic to hear about it," said Angelo Caruso, who lives in St. Johns County.

According to St. Johns County Fire-Rescue, the young man was last seen in the water about 4 p.m. Sunday. That's when Fire-Rescue responded, along with the Sheriff's Office and the St. Augustine Beach Police Department.

Sheri Sparks and her husband, Mark Sparks, stood along the beach with others, hoping for the best as search crews scanned the water from the land, air and sea.

"We were able to come across his friends -- him and his wife. We were able to have prayer with them," Sheri Sparks said Sunday. "Hopefully we're able to comfort them in this very difficult time."

The Coast Guard joined in the search, which continued Monday. Crews were patrolling the beach throughout the day and St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick said the search will continue into Monday night.

"We will continue to search," Hardwick said Monday. "Hopefully it's not a recovery mission. But unfortunately, this point, you know, we are just trying to simply find him and locate him and return him to his family."

There were strong rip currents Monday as Hurricane Humberto churned away from the Atlantic coast, leaving behind high surf and dangerous rip currents. 

With the rough surf and strong currents over the weekend came more than 20 rescues along the St. Johns County coast. The Police Department told News4Jax that eight people were rescued from the water Saturday and 13 were rescued Sunday. At least three people were taken to a hospital, including a man who was rescued Sunday and taken to Flagler Hospital in serious condition. 

"We have run multiple water emergencies," Fire-Rescue Capt. Lucas Smith said Sunday. "Many people are having trouble getting in and out of the water because of the conditions. They are really strong rip currents because of the storm."

Red flags warning beachgoers of the high rip current risk were posted again on Monday as crews continued to patrol the beach, looking for any sign of the missing swimmer.

"It's just common sense, really, not to go out if the red flags are out," beachgoer Darienne Strickland said. "Just prayers for the family and just hope that they can find him."

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