Relatives of the 39-year-old Orcutt man who died Tuesday after he was attacked by a shark while surfing at Surf Beach near Lompoc say they are grateful for community support, but would appreciate privacy as they deal with the sudden loss of a son, father and friend.
Patricia Solorio, a sister of Francisco Javier Solorio Jr., recited an official statement from his family Wednesday, which did not include pending funeral arrangements.
“He died doing what he loved,” she said. “He leaves behind his beautiful daughter and loving friends. The family wishes for this to remain a private matter.”
Patricia Solorio went on to thank friends and community members.
Francisco Javier Solorio Jr. was fatally injured Tuesday when he was bitten in the upper torso area while surfing at Surf Beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base west of Lompoc, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
“The shark in this tragic incident has been positively identified as a 15–16-foot great white shark,” sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Williams said late Wednesday afternoon.
That determination came after Ralph Collier from the Shark Research Committee in Chatsworth, Calif., examined Solorio’s body, Williams said.
The incident, reported shortly before 11 a.m. by another surfer who was in the area, occurred some 500 yards north of Ocean Beach county park, Williams said.
Vandenberg Fire Department personnel were the first to reach the scene, and took over the first-aid efforts, Williams said, but Solorio eventually was declared dead by paramedics.
Surf Beach and other Vandenberg beaches were expected to remain closed for 72 hours following the attack, according to base officials.
A great white shark was the “leading suspect” in Tuesday’s attack, according to Milton Love, a research biologist at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute who has written a book about fish found off the Pacific coast.
“If you’re bitten by a shark in California, the chances are astronomically good that it’s a white shark,” Love said, noting that’s almost always the case. “That makes sense because it’s the most abundant of the large sharks that would be likely to eat something like a human.”
Love said tropical sharks, which are the only other type known to attack, very rarely make the journey into the cooler waters off the Central Coast.
A great white shark was also responsible for an attack that killed a UCSB student in the same location two years ago almost to the day. That death was Santa Barbara County’s first mainland fatal shark attack.
The sharks spend August through February off the Central Coast, Love said, and then head to Hawaii for breeding.
“Most of that coastline, you do run some risk,” Love said. “It’s the right time of the year.”