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Brit shark attack victim was former RAF serviceman due to marry 'girl of his dreams'
17 February 2022, 07:34 | Updated: 17 February 2022, 17:10
The swimmer mauled to death by a 4m shark off the coast of Sydney yesterday has been named as a 35-year-old British expat who was training for a charity swim.
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Simon Nellist was a keen swimmer and scuba diving instructor, living in Australia with his fiancé - who he was due to marry.
The tragedy happened as the former Royal Air Force serviceman was due to marry the "girl of his dreams", a local news station reported.
The wedding was reportedly delayed last year due to Covid.
He loved the ocean, with his friend Della Ross telling 7News "everything that is connected to Simon is connected to the ocean".
He added: "The news hit us like a truck because he was one of the people who make this earth lighter."
He was said to be an experienced and patient diving instructor, who taught his students the importance of respecting the ocean.
He is understood to have served in the RAF for a number of tours and decided to move to Australia after service.
It is reported that Simon grew up in Penzance, Cornwall, and has family in the UK.
One close friend told The Sun Newspaper: "Him and Jessie were due to get married last year but that got put off because of Covid.
"Simon was amazing. That’s all there is to say really. He was just the best. He was the nicest, kindest human. It is a huge loss."
It is believed to be the first fatal shark attack in Sydney since 1963.
Mr Nellist was in the water because he was training for the Murray Rose Malabar Magic Ocean Swim, a charity even scheduled for this weekend.
It has now been cancelled as a mark of respect, as well as to ensure the safety of the event.
"The organising committee extends our thoughts and prayers to the family of the swimmer who was so tragically taken yesterday," organisers said in a statement.
Emergency services were called to the area on Sydney's coast at 4.35pm on Wednesday following reports a swimmer had been attacked by a shark, believed by authorities to be a great white.
They scoured the nearby sea and "located human remains in the water".
"Unfortunately this person had suffered catastrophic injuries and there was nothing paramedics could do," said a New South Wales ambulance spokesperson.
Videos on social media show seawater turning red with blood in the aftermath of the attack.
Footage also shows helicopters and jet skis searching the sea at the scene.
On Wednesday, local mayor Dylan Parker said the news was "horrifying" and shared his condolences to the family.
"Horrifying news," he wrote on Twitter."
I have just had confirmed that there has been a fatal shark attack at Little Bay... Absolutely shocked.
"My heart goes out to the family.
"Our community adores our coast. To lose someone like this is chilling to the core."
One witness to the attack said it was "terrible".
"I keep shaking," he told ABC shortly afterwards.
"I keep vomiting, it's very upsetting."
Kris Linto, another witness, said the swimmer was in the water when the shark "came and attacked him vertically".
He told Nine News TV: "We heard a yell and then turned around, it looked like a car just landed in the water, big splash."
The beaches near the site of the attack remained closed on Thursday while authorities hunt for the shark.