NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – A heroic rescue ended in tragedy overnight, as a young man tried to save 3 others in Neptune Beach, ultimately giving his life for their safety.
19-year-old Mykhailo Myroshnychenko went missing in the surf near the Neptune and Atlantic Beach city limits Tuesday night around 8pm. A police officer involved in the search found a body believed to be his near 19th Street in Atlantic Beach around 2:30 Wednesday morning.
The young man’s family has been notified. Police say he’s a Ukrainian citizen who was in the Jacksonville area. He’d turn 20 next week.
This marks the 3rd teenager to drown at local beaches in just 10 days.
“Our heartfelt and deepest condolences go out to that family,” said Neptune Beach Police Department commander Michael Key.
“The only thing I can say is at that time he was trying to help somebody and he is a great person for that,” said Captain Rich Banks, who leads Neptune Beach Ocean Rescue. “Anytime you have a situation like this, it’s our job to get in and save people. And you kind of feel a sense of responsibility when you don’t find them and you are not able to save them. That’s what you train for, that’s what you are trying to do. And it is heartbreaking.”
Both agencies were involved in the search, along with Atlantic Beach Police and Ocean Rescue, Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue, Jacksonville Fire Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s air unit.
Investigators said Myroshnychenko was visiting the beach Tuesday evening when complete strangers got into trouble. It happened after guards got off duty, so witnesses said he jumped in to help.
Banks said helping others is a noble yet risky feat.
“You’ve got to take into account your own abilities. I know sometimes in those situation’s people may be thinking I just need to help, and not take into account their abilities,” Banks said.
News4JAX saw search crews working into the night to find him, using a helicopter and a Coast Guard boat. Banks put out an all-call for his off-duty lifeguards to come in. He said even former guards came to help swim the waters, looking for the young man.
Investigators said a rip current could be to blame. it’s the latest tragedy in a trio of suspected drownings in our area.
On the evening of May 28, 19-year-old Curtis Newkirk Junior went under when swimming with his family in Jacksonville Beach. A paddleboarder found his body days later.
On May 30, 16-year-old Connor Mathis died in the surf in Jekyll Island while at a camp. Georgia search crews found him hours later.
Rescuers are urging people to listen to their warnings.
“We always encourage everybody to swim near lifeguard, know your limits, don’t go in the ocean if you’re not a strong swimmer, anywhere past your knees- even at that point it can be dangerous,” Key said.
Conditions have been relatively calm, with guards flying yellow (moderate risk) flags. However, News4JAX saw a rip current Wednesday afternoon. Thankfully because it’s regular hours, guards were keeping people out of it. It goes to show even a beautiful day at the beach can be dangerous.
“It’s been tremendously busy over the past month. We responded to more calls in this past month then we did half of the year last year,” Banks said, noting that the area is seeing a lot of new residents as well as visitors making the population on the beach higher than years past.
Guards remind people to swim parallel to shore if caught in a rip current. They urge people to rest, float, and not panic.