Man saves wife in surf, dies

Published July 22, 2006

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH - A 52-year-old man saved his wife from drowning in the ocean before he died, officials said.

Officials are awaiting an autopsy to learn the cause of death for West Virginia resident Jeffrey Stewart, who arrived Wednesday on vacation with his wife, Deborah. Officials didn't release their hometown.

They were swimming near St. Augustine Beach early Thursday when she was swept into deep water, possibly by a rip current, police and rescue officials said.

Jeffrey Stewart kept his wife afloat until two surfers arrived to help, police said.

"He saved her," assistant chief Joseph E. Sisti said. "There's no doubt about it."

Surfers Molly Donoghue, 15, and Blake Massengill, 17, paddled out to the couple. "I got them to hold onto the board," Donoghue said.

Massengill was able to pull the woman to shore. But the man became unconscious and died later at Flagler Hospital.