Officials identified a body pulled from the waters off Jacksonville Beach, Florida, as 19-year-old swimmer Curtis Newkirk Jr., who had been missing since May 28. The medical examiner identified the body as Newkirk Jr. on Friday, Jacksonville police announced in a release sent to Fox News Digital.
A paddleboarder reportedly spotted a body about 100 yards offshore, about 10 blocks north of the Jacksonville Beach Pier, at around 10:24 a.m. on May 31, according to the police department.
Newkirk Jr. had been swimming with “a group of friends” at around 7:30 p.m. last Sunday, according to First Coast News, when lifeguards said some of them had trouble in the water. The rip current moved them far to the right, and they thought Curtis had already gotten out of the water when everyone else made it to shore, but Newkirk was nowhere to be found, per reports by TMJ-TV.
The National Weather Service of Jacksonville tweeted that there was a “high risk of rip currents” on May 28 at Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia beaches, a warning that spanned over Memorial Day weekend. Lifeguards rescued at least six people on May 27, and the Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue brought at least 15 people to shore on May 28, News 4 Jax reported.
⚠️🌊🚩 High Risk of Rip Currents for NE FL & SE GA beaches today. When in doubt, don't go out!
Rip currents will be life-threatening for all levels of swimmers. Be very cautious if entering the surf. If caught in a rip current, STAY CALM, WAVE, YELL & FLOAT! #flwx #gawx #jaxwx pic.twitter.com/4BLiJYM0pQ
— NWS Jacksonville (@NWSJacksonville) May 28, 2023
Newkirk’s loved ones gathered on the beach on May 29 to release balloons and pray for his return, First Coast News reported. Friends marked a No. 7 in the sand with candles, representative of his basketball jersey number. Family members told the news outlet he was “loved and cared for.” They also described him as a “responsible” and “respectful” young man.