VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — A body boarder bled to death Friday at a beach northwest of Los Angeles after a shark mauled his leg, authorities said, prompting officials to close three beaches through the weekend.
Lucas Ransom, 19, was boogie-boarding in the surf line about 100 yards off of Surf Beach with a friend when a shark suddenly pulled him under the water shortly before 9 a.m., according to a statement from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
Ransom’s friend and others at the beach pulled him from the water, but the University of California, Santa Barbara, student had a severe wound to his left leg and died a short time later, the statement said. The shark’s chomp took out a 1-foot portion of the board’s side.
Ransom, who was from Romoland in Riverside County, was a junior at UCSB majoring in chemical engineering, school spokesman Paul Desruisseaux said.
Surf Beach, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles, is on the property of Vandenberg Air Force Base but is open to the public. Vandenberg closed Surf Beach and adjoining Wall and Minuteman beaches for at least three days.
There have been nearly 100 shark attacks in California since the 1920s, including a dozen that were fatal, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. But attacks have remained relatively rare even as the population of swimmers, divers and surfers sharing the waters has soared.
The last shark attack on Surf Beach was in 2008, when what was believed to be a great white shark bit a surfer’s board. The surfer was not harmed.
The last fatal attack in California was that same year, when triathlete David Martin, 66, bled to death after a great white shark bit his legs about 150 yards off of a San Diego County beach.
Randy Fry, 50, died from a great white attack in 2004 while diving off the coast of Mendocino, north of San Francisco Bay.
In 2003, a great white shark killed Deborah Franzman, 50, as she swam at Avila Beach, about 30 miles north of Vandenberg.
Many attacks are attributed to great white sharks, which can grow to 21 feet long. They live in the cold waters of Northern California and are rarer in Central and Southern California, although they do visit there to give birth.
The type of shark that attacked Ransom was not immediately determined, but witnesses said it was 14 to 20 feet long.
Authorities have issued several warnings this year after great white shark sightings up and down the California coast.
Juvenile sharks eat fish, rays and other sea life, and the adults also eat seals and sea lions. That can pose a problem for oceangoers, especially if they venture near marine mammal colonies.
The Fish and Game Department said sharks sometimes mistake people for seals or sea lions when swimmers wear a wet suit and fins or lay on a surfboard.