While patrolling the beach near Fort Clinch, a Fernandina Beach police officer happened upon a distraught and frantic group of men that reported a drowning incident that occurred Thursday afternoon.
Officer Mark Ocepek radioed for assistance at 4:32 PM and additional help arrived in the form of Marine Units from the Nassau County Sheriff TMs Office, the Florida Water and Fish Commission, and the United States Coast Guard. Officer TMs scanned the beaches and rock jetties, but the young victim could not be located.
At 6:30 PM the area was still being worked by the U.S. Coast Guard search helicopter and rescue vessel, as well as Fernandina Beach police and EMS.
Caster Nova Gray, 17, of Nashville, GA was reportedly net fishing in shallow water near Fort Clinch when he apparently stepped into deeper water or the channel and immediately went under the water and did not surface. Gray reportedly could not swim, which was later confirmed by his mother when notified of this incident.
A companion, Hayward Collier, was close by and attempted to pull Gray to safety, but was affected by the strong current and was unable to pull Gray from under the water. Two others, Willie Frank Hallback, 61, and Greg Stewart, 15, also from Nashville, GA were present and interviewed by investigators on the scene.
Authorities are continuing the search for the victim.