Sydney Shark Attack Victim Identified as 'Wonderful' Diving Instructor Who Was Engaged to Be Married

Simon Nellist, 35, was the victim of Wednesday's fatal shark attack near Little Bay Beach

Simon Nellist
Simon Nellist. Photo: Queens Hotel Facebook

The victim of a fatal shark attack in Sydney — the city's first in nearly 60 years — has been identified as Simon Nellist.

Nellist, a 35-year-old diving instructor, was training for an upcoming charity swim event at the time of the attack on Wednesday afternoon local time, reported the BBC.

New South Wales police said in a previous statement that they arrived at Buchan Point, an area located near Little Bay Beach, just after 4:30 p.m. upon receiving a report of a shark attack nearby. After searching the area, police "located human remains in the water."

"Unfortunately this person had suffered catastrophic injuries and there was nothing paramedics could do," an NSW Ambulance spokesperson said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

Local officials say Nellist was familiar with the area. He "came here and swam nearly every day," Maroubra MP Michael Daley said on Thursday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Although he was living in Australia at the time of the attack, Nellist was British and a former member of the Royal Air Force, per the Sydney Morning Herald. He was also engaged to be married.

"Our consular staff are in touch with the NSW Police regarding a shark attack in Sydney," a spokesperson for the U.K.'s foreign office told the newspaper. "We are supporting the family of a British man and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time."

Simon Nellist
Simon Nellist. Scubathlon Facebook

Out of respect, the Murray Rose Malabar Magic Ocean Swim, originally scheduled to take place on Sunday, has been canceled.

"The organising committee extends our thoughts and prayers to the family of Simon Nellist who was so tragically taken yesterday," the swim wrote in a statement.

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Following his death, Nellist was remembered by friends and loved ones.

"Dear Simon, thank you for having been on this Earth. No words could describe what we feel, as no words could console your loved ones," read a tribute from Scubathlon, a Sydney-based social diving club he was involved in.

"You knew how to love, play and work, how to stand your ground. You volunteered your help on our courses, always assuming the most difficult roles. You supported us through sad times, joined in the fun in happy times," they continued. "This is a huge loss, immeasurable. Our sincerest condolences to Jessie and your parents, to everyone who loved you, to all people on this planet because the world has become a much sadder place without you."

Simon Nellist
Simon Nellist. Scubathlon Facebook

A U.K. hotel, where Nellist worked for several years before moving to Australia, also sent their "thoughts and prayers" to his "family, fiancé and friends."

"Simon was a wonderful man," they wrote. "He was a valued member of staff and was always popular with guests and all fellow team members. Rest in peace, Simon. "

One of Nellist's friends told local television channel Seven News that the diving instructor was "due to get married last year," but had to push back the ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's just horrendous," Della Ross told the channel. "The news hit us like a truck because he was one of the people who make this earth lighter."

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Following the attack, all local beaches were closed for 24 hours while authorities patrolled for additional shark sightings. Beaches were cleared to re-open on Friday.

State authorities believe the shark responsible for the attack was a 3 meter-long great white, per the BBC.

"To lose someone to a shark attack like this is chilling," Randwick Mayor Dylan Parker said in a previous statement. "We are all in shock."

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