FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – A 15-year-old missing swimmer is presumed dead after an hours-long search off the coast of Fernandina Beach.

City officials said the teenager was caught in a rip current around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday near the 3rd Street beach access, about a mile below and 1,000 feet away. The Coast Guard is searching further out with helicopters as the current pushes north.

City officials also said the boy came here from Georgia with two other people and all three were in the water in an inflatable raft that was caught in a rip current.

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The woman who called 911 told Action News Jax that the 12-year-old was with a friend and his mother.

“They had an inflatable raft between three people. Someone was on it, and when it was blown away, someone swam and got it before bringing it to them. Meanwhile, the waves hit them and tossed them around… A boy came to the shore and I saw one move his head from the south towards the shore… When the men got there, I never saw his head again,” she said Ben Ryan from Action News Jax.

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Multiple law enforcement agencies searched the air and water near Access Point 6-H. The woman Ryan spoke to said she was thinking about the boy’s family.

“It’s just a tragedy. It’s terrible,” she said. “As much as I love the beach and the ocean and what it is, you can’t mess with it.”

Red flags had been flying since yesterday due to Hurricane Lee’s strong currents. The 911 caller said if anyone is thinking about coming to the beach, it’s important to know.

“Be aware of the beach warning system. It’s not that great out here. If you are on a main beach, there will be a flag hanging at the lifeguard stand. If you are at number 12 there is also a lifeguard stand with warning flags. There is nothing in between, so it is up to you to check,” she said.

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With lifeguard stand season over, Action News Jax was told only about 7 patrols made the 12 miles on Wednesday.

Law enforcement will be out overnight looking for signs of the teenager, but the major recovery search will continue Thursday morning.

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