The victim of the first fatal shark attack in Sydney in 60 years survived two tours of Afghanistan before being mauled by a great white shark during a daytime swim.
Simon Nellist, 35, died on Wednesday afternoon while practicing to swim in the ocean in Little Bay, east Sydney – just 100 meters from terrified spectators.
Relatives said his distraught mother wondered “how could he come back from the front line safe and sound, only to go to Australia and go swimming and be killed.”
On Friday, a close friend shared a post the former soldier wrote last year during his time in Afghanistan with the RAF.
In the post, Mr. Nellist wrote about Rage Against The Machine playing music for local kids.
Pictured: Simon Nellist plays Rage Against The Machine with kids in Afghanistan.
Simon Nellist was set to marry “the love of his life” Jesse Ho (pictured together)
Mr Nellist wrote that the children “were such sweet, just good-hearted kids who had nothing. We became friends, played music and shared food.
– I hope they’re all right. If they managed to escape, I hope we can take care of as many of them as possible.”
A friend of the shark victim shared a post to show what a gentleman Simon was.
“He was a rarity, the salt of the earth, he lived life to the fullest, an incredible diver and photographer, a brave soldier, a handsome man, his heart was healthy,” she said.
“I can’t stop thinking about him, his family, the love of his life, Jesse, and the pain they feel.”
A close friend shared a post the former soldier wrote last year during one of Mr Nellist’s two tours of Afghanistan with the RAF.
Friends flocked to social media to honor the memory of Simon Nellit, who grew up in England.
She said that he was too young to die and did not deserve such a terrible death.
Mr Nellist, who grew up in Cornwall in the southwest of England, was due to marry his fiancé Jessie Ho this summer.
Other friends shared photos of Mr. Nellit, including another from when he served in the military.
“Not a single bone in your body,” said one man. “A few good moments together, mate. Rest easy.
British diving instructor Simon Nellist, 35, died just 500 feet from frightened beachgoers near Sydney.
One friend said, “You don’t have a single sick bone in your body” in a touching Facebook post (pictured)
His aunt Jackie Seeger, 62, said Thursday: “I don’t think Simon would want the shark to be killed. He loved nature.
“He used to swim with sharks. It’s not the first time he goes out and sees them, but he would still go swimming. It’s bold.
“I don’t think he ever thought they would harm him. Unfortunately, this time he managed to get to it.
“That’s just terrible. We are all in shock.
Simone Nellist is pictured second from right with a group of friends.
His aunt Jackie Seeger, 62, said Thursday: “I don’t think Simon would want the shark to be killed. He loved nature. Mr. Nellist is pictured second from the left.
Photographer Mrs Seeger from Maidstone, Kent, added: “Most days he was swimming. It’s just an accident. It shows that you can’t take life for granted.”
His death at Buchan Point on Wednesday forced authorities to close most of the beaches.
Special “drum lines” were installed in the water – water traps with bait for baiting and catching large sharks.
However, they are controversial because sharks have died in them. They also often catch other wild animals.
Mr. Nellist criticized their use, saying they “don’t protect anyone” and “need to go”.
Mr. Nellist, who grew up in Penzance, Cornwall, traveled to Afghanistan twice before settling in Australia and was due to marry his fiancee, Jessie Ho, this summer.
His death came weeks before “smart” drumming was reportedly due to have been installed to prevent the tragedy.
Mother-of-three Mrs Seeger said: “He told his mom he was going to Australia and that was it.” He liked it so much that he stayed.
“He met his girlfriend Jessie there. They are about the same age and immediately hit it off. They have been together for many years.
“She is completely broken, like his parents. I spoke to them last night and they are incredible.
“They’ll never get over it – never – because it’s something you keep with you for the rest of your life. I just feel so sorry for them.
“They plan to go there as soon as they can, but they need to sort out the visas.
“Everyone was going to fly there to see him get married in June or July, but unfortunately it’s happening now under much sadder circumstances.”
Mr Nellist was the first person to be killed by a shark in the Sydney area since the 1960s.
Mrs Seeger emphasized: “Simon has always loved the sea. He has always been very close to it. He loved the wild and the world.
“He had a real love for nature. He was a very kind and considerate person who simply loved life. He was a tough guy and made two tours of Afghanistan.
“His mom said how could he come back from the front safe and sound, then go to Australia, go swimming and get killed.”
Mr. Nellist served with RAF 34 Squadron based at RAF Leaming in North Yorkshire. His shocked parents Mike and Rosemary from Helston, Cornwall declined to comment yesterday.
Experts believe the shark that killed Mr. Nellist during his daily swim was at least 10 feet long and could have mistaken his wetsuit for a seal.
Mrs Seeger emphasized: “Simon has always loved the sea. He has always been very close to it. He loved the wild and the world. He had a real love for nature.”
He trained for the swimming competition on Sunday, but it has now been cancelled. Dr Chris Pepin-Neff of the University of Sydney said such shark attacks were incredibly rare, with only 10 or 12 such incidents in 30 years worldwide.
But he added: “Sharks don’t madly bite people thinking we might be their prey.”
Mr. Nellist’s girlfriend Della Ross described the devastation of the diving community, saying, “Everything to do with Simon is about the ocean.
“This news hit us like a truck because he was one of those who make this Earth easier.”