Woman who retrieved California surfer’s body is ‘obviously part of family now’, says victim’s uncle

Suspected shark attack comes when California is recording a surge in the number of great whites

Arpan Rai
Wednesday 05 January 2022 13:51
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<p>Police ordered beachgoers to stay out of the water after a fatal shark attack in Morro Bay, California</p>

Police ordered beachgoers to stay out of the water after a fatal shark attack in Morro Bay, California

The family of a man who was killed in an apparent shark attack in California on Christmas eve thanked a surfer who managed to retrieve the man’s remains and said she was “obviously part of the family now”.

The attack is believed to be the first fatal shark attack in the US in 2021 and had occurred at Morro Bay, about 320km north of Los Angeles.

Authorities had identified the victim as 42-year-old Tomas Butterfield on Thursday, according to a Los Angeles Times report published on Sunday.

Around 10.40am on Christmas eve, a woman surfer found a bodyboard “kind of bobbing in the water” near a surfing spot called The Pit and paddled towards it, Morro Bay Harbor Director Eric Endersby told the LA Times.

On reaching the spot, she saw a leash attached to the bodyboard and “tugged on it”.

Using his swim fins, she managed to come back to the shore with Butterfield’s remains. More than two dozen were at the beach by then.

The woman “doesn’t know it, but she’s obviously part of the family now”, Grant Butterfield, the victim’s uncle, told the newspaper.

The attack took place when his nephew was on a visit to his mother, according to Mr Butterfield. He had gone to the beach alone on Christmas eve morning, he added.

The family had feared they would not have been able to find Butterfield’s remains.

“The possibility that his board might have gone farther out to sea and that he would have been missing forever and we wouldn’t have known anything...” Mr Butterfield had said before breaking down, according to the LA Times report.

Mr Butterfield said the death of his nephew was a “terrible loss” because he was about to make something of himself.

The family was going to do OK, he said, adding “even at that, it’s a tough time holding it together”.

It was not clear if there were any people who had witnessed the attack.

Butterfield’s death remains under investigation, according to the report.

After the incident was reported, officials closed the area around Morro Strand for 24 hours soon after and had installed warning signs urging people to not enter into the water.

The suspected shark attack comes when California has been reporting a surge in the number of great white sharks. Officials said human-shark encounters have been extremely rare.

Experts said sharks were coming back to their natural habitat.

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