JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The search for a man last seen Sunday afternoon in the water at Huguenot Park was called off Monday morning after a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department beach patrol found a body.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said the man and two children got caught in rough surf about 1:45 p.m. Sunday and beachgoers formed a human chain to reach them. The two children -- ages 4 and 9 -- were rescued, but the man could not be pulled to shore before he disappeared in the water.
“Unfortunately, it appears the victim drowned yesterday,” JSO homicide Sgt. Ed Bawroski said Monday. “Our thoughts and hearts are with the family at this time pending positive identification.”
JFRD and JSO marine units, Ocean Rescue, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the U.S. Coast Guard all joined the search after the alert for the missing man went out. Shortly after the park opened Monday morning, several police officers and a crime scene unit were called to the scene and most of the JFRD personnel left.
Family members identified the man as Larry Dupree. His aunt said he trying to help his kids to safety before he went under.
According to family, Dupree, a lifelong resident of Callahan and Hilliard in western Nassau County, was married and had four children. He worked for UPS.
“We are saddened by the news of Larry’s tragic drowning,” UPS said in a statement provided to News4Jax. “We’ve lost one of the UPS family, and our thoughts are now with his family. Larry was a terrific individual and all of his friends at UPS will miss him.”
On Monday night, Dupree’s wife posted on Facebook that she was thankful for the support from the public and the prayers for her husband.
Friends said Dupree was very involved in his church, Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church on U.S. 1.
Family and friends have been saying goodbye and trying to support his family on social media.
“You have no clue how heartbroken I am over this,” one commenter said.
“Please take a moment and pray for my family this morning,” another commenter said.
“I’m so sorry for your family’s loss, I know y’all been going through it here lately,” one comment reads.
“Praying for y’all this is absolutely terrible,” another comment reads.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Dupree’s family.
Joey Smith has been surfing for 40 years and knows how hazardous the ocean surf can be.
“I’m sorry,” Smith said. “I’ve actually saved somebody before and I wish I was out here to help him out.”
Coastal waters remained dangerous on Monday, with a rip current risk continued at least through the evening. There were red flags outside of the Huguenot Park entrance -- meaning there are likely to be strong rip currents and swimmers should stay out of the water.
RELATED: How to survive a rip current
There was a high rip current risk along the Northeast Florida coast throughout the weekend. A spokesperson for Jacksonville Beach lifeguards said they had to help 10 swimmers get back safely to shore Sunday because of rough waters.
As of right now, police have not confirmed if rip currents had anything to do with the Huguenot Park incident, but the red flags were flying Sunday afternoon.
Rod Sullivan, a maritime expert, told News4Jax that rip currents can be extremely dangerous.
“You can see them if you’re high enough, but when you’re down at water level, you can’t see them,” Sullivan said. “A rip current rips out from the shoreline so fast that even an Olympic swimmer cannot fight against it and get to shore.”