• Nassau County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ken Clements, a rescue swimmer with the NCSO Marine Unit, packs his gear in Fernandina Beach on Sunday. Clements and other first responders converged on Beach Access 6 on Sunday afternoon after a 911 call about a swimmer in distress. The body of Christopher Brian Murray, 49, was found about an hour-and-a-half later. Peg Davis/News-Leader

Local man drowns in rough surf

A Fernandina Beach man who went swimming during “red flag” surf conditions on Sunday afternoon drowned.

The body of Christopher Brian Murray, 49, was recovered about an hour-and-a-half after the initial call came in and first responders converged on Beach Access 6 off South Fletcher Avenue to look for him.

“It’s really bad out there,” Fernandina Beach Police Sergeant Jon Hepler said.

According to Capt. David Bishop, Fernandina Beach police officers, Fernandina Beach Fire/Rescue, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, and an off-duty Fernandina Beach lifeguard all rushed to the scene.

Cale Murray, 20, told the responders that “his father was still in the water and needed to be rescued,” according to a news release from Fernandina Beach Police Chief James T. Hurley.

A local pilot, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Air Unit and the United States Coast Guard soon began to fly over the area.

At about 4:50 p.m. Christopher Murray was spotted about 20 yards offshore and south of where he had last been seen. Murray was “pulled from the surf and pronounced deceased at the scene,” according to the news release. The victim’s son “was medically cleared by Fire/Rescue at the scene.”

NCSO Deputy Ken Clements of the Marine Unit said later that the rip current was going straight out at the time of the incident. Winds from the northeast were whipping up large waves as the tide moved out.


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