Monday, July 16 , 2018, 9:44 am | Fair 69º


Local News

Fatal Attack by Great White Shark a First for Santa Barbara County

DFG officials say last week's death of a UCSB student was just the 13th fatality in California in 95 years

Friday morning’s fatal shark attack off Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Surf Beach that killed a UCSB student was the first in mainland Santa Barbara County’s history.

Lucas Ransom, 19, died of his injuries after a great white shark bit his left leg and pulled him off his boogie board. The Romoland native was a junior majoring in chemical engineering.

Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish & Game, told Noozhawk on Monday that it was the 13th California shark attack fatality since the DFG began keeping records 95 years ago.

He confirmed that the shark involved in the attack was a great white, estimated at 14 to 16 feet in length based on the bite marks and bite pattern on the boogie board and victim. Photographs of Ransom’s boogie board showed bite measuring about 13 inches wide at the largest part.

Hughan said great whites are “the perfect predator,” and they swiftly attack without warning. Though they have poor eyesight, movement attracts them, and a person on a board can easily be mistaken for a seal or other food source. He said they also maintain a bit of secrecy, as they can’t be kept in captivity for long and it’s not clear why.

Scuba divers and spear fishers are advised to keep their fish away from them — even if they aren’t bleeding — and anyone in the ocean should avoid wearing shiny objects or sharply contrasting colors, such as a wetsuit with a bright yellow stripe, he said. But he said none of those matter as much as luck.

“It’s really fate, unfortunately,” Hughan said.

Worldwide, there were 61 attacks in 2009, five of them fatal, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. California’s last fatal attack was in 2008, when a swimmer was killed off the coast of Solana Beach.

“We caution people to remember they’re in (sharks’) territory,” Hughan said. “They’re a wild animal.”

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.

Earlier this year, there were at least three instances of great whites attacking sea lions around Santa Barbara Island, prompting Channel Islands National Park officials to issue a warning to the public.

Shark attacks get a lot of attention for a reason — they’re rare. Dozens more people get killed by deer (through car crashes), snakes and dogs each year than sharks in the United States.

Surf Beach reopened to the public at 8 a.m. Monday, as there were no observed or reported shark sightings at any base beaches since being closed after the attack, VAFB said in a statement.

There are additional signs posted that warn of the recent attack, and Santa Barbara County officials have done the same for beaches in the Lompoc area. VAFB’s Minuteman and Wall beaches are not open to the public and remain closed for the base’s two-week inspection period, Lt. Ann Blodzinski said in a statement.

A memorial and paddle-out is planned for Thursday near Ransom’s hometown in Southern California.

Click here for tips for avoiding a shark attack, visit the National Parks Conservation Association’s website. Click here for more information about region-specific shark attack statistics.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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