Simon Nellist, a 35-year-old British diving instructor, was identified as the victim of a deadly shark attack off the coast of Little Bay in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday.

Training for a charity swim and treading out roughly 150 feet from the beach at Buchan Point, Simon Nellist was attacked by a 15-foot great white shark. His remains were found later on the beach, according to The Sun, who revealed that he was also a former Royal Air Force (RAF) serviceman.

It was the first recorded shark attack in the area in nearly 60 years, with one expert concluding that the 35-year-old was most likely mistaken for a seal. As a diving instructor, Nellist reportedly spoke out about shark protection rights, and even had experience swimming with the ocean predators.

“Shark nets and drum lines,” massive hooks on buoys that bait sharks, “protect no one and kill all kinds of marine life every year,” Simon Nellist once wrote on Facebook.

He also posted videos of himself swimming with nearly a dozen sharks in an effort to dispel the myth of the dangerous beasts.

Simon Nellist “really knew the water” a close friend told The Sun. “He was massively into wildlife and knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn’t daft. It’s just a freak accident.”

“Simon was doing his diving and he would send us the most amazing videos of the wildlife out there. He was so respectful of the wildlife,” they continued. “He was the nicest, kindest human. It is a huge loss.”

Simon Nellist, Sydney shark attack victim, and his fiancee, Jessie Ho
Simon Nellist, Sydney shark attack victim, and his fiancée, Jessie Ho. Photo Credit: Facebook

After ending his service with the Royal Air Force, the diving instructor traveled the world a bit before settling for a time in Australia. It was there that he met Jessie Ho, his fiancée and girlfriend for around six years. The two fell in love and were engaged before tragedy struck.

Described as the “girl of his dreams,” Simon and Jessie were overdue for a wedding that got postponed because of Covid-19. Though she has yet to speak about his tragic accident, close friends told reporters that the situation was still “incredibly raw.”

“It’s just horrendous,” friends told The Sun. “We spent most of yesterday just hoping and praying it wasn’t him.”

“The news hit us like a truck because he was one of the people who make this earth lighter,” another friend stated. “He loved the water, he loved diving.”

Simon Nellist, the diving instructor, was beloved by his friends and even advocated for shark protection rights
Simon Nellist, the diving instructor, was beloved by his friends and even advocated for shark protection rights. Photo Credit: Facebook

Following the attack, Australian authorities barred access to the beach and banned swimmers from the water.

“We are supporting the family of a British man and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time,” a spokesman for the New South Wales Police said.

Shark attacks are rare in Sydney, despite the presence of great white sharks off the shores, due to preventative measures such as nets and other unnatural deterrents.

According to BBC News, surf authorities have been unable to locate the shark since the frenzied attack, and are now using drones and helicopters to survey a wider perimeter of the nearby ocean.

“We heard a yell and turned around, it looked like a car had landed in the water, a big splash then the shark,” one witness recalled.

Local authorities familiar with Simon Nellist said that he came to the beach to swim nearly every day.

“Our entire community is thinking of the family and friends of the victim today,” said local Mayor Dylan Parker. “This is a shocking tragedy that our area will feel for a long time.”