A 39-year-old Orcutt man was fatally injured Tuesday when he was attacked by a shark while surfing at Surf Beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base west of Lompoc, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
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, said sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Williams.
The victim, who was bitten in the upper torso area, was identified late Tuesday afternoon as Francisco Javier Solorio Jr., Williams said.
“A friend, who was also surfing and witnessed the shark attack, swam over to assist the victim, pulling him out of the ocean and onto the beach,” Williams said. “The victim’s friend started first-aid procedures while another surfer called 911.
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.
The type of shark involved and other details remained under investigation, Williams said.
Surf Beach was closed while authorities investigated the death, but sheriff’s Lt. Erik Rainy said he expected the beach to reopen as early as Wednesday.
A small memorial built near a beach entrance served as a reminder of the shark attack that killed a UCSB student in the same location two years ago almost to the day.
On Oct. 22, 2010, Lucas Ransom, 19, of Romoland in Riverside County, was boogie boarding with a friend about 100 yards from shore when a shark pulled him under the water. Friends and other witnesses rushed him to the beach, but he suffered a massive wound to his left leg and died of his injuries at the scene.
That death was Santa Barbara County’s first mainland fatal shark attack.
Based on the bite marks and bite pattern on Ransom’s leg and boogie board, California Department of Fish & Game officials determined that the shark was a great white estimated to be 14 to 16 feet in length. Photographs of the junior chemical engineering student’s boogie board showed a bite measuring about 13 inches wide at the largest part.
Great whites are suspected to have been involved in two other local incidents: A shark bit a man’s surfboard at Surf Beach in 2008, and a diver was fatally attacked off the coast of San Miguel Island in 1994.
Numerous sightings of great white sharks have been reported this year near the Santa Barbara Harbor but there have been no attacks.
“We’ve had shark sightings up and down the beaches,” Rainy said of this year’s countywide increase. “I think it’s pretty well known locally. I would always caution anybody that’s going to go out in the ocean.”