Shark Attack

Officials Release Santa Cruz County Shark Attack Victim's Cause of Death

A shark attack sign is posted at the Sand Dollar Beach section of Manresa State Beach in Watsonville.
Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

The 26-year-old surfer who was killed in a shark attack in Santa Cruz County last weekend suffered a bite to his right knee, officials said Wednesday.

Ben Kelly was surfing near Manresa State Beach around 1:30 p.m. Saturday when he was attacked. The cause of death was ruled a "shark bite to right knee with disruption of popliteal artery and vein," according to a statement from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office.

It's still unclear what type of shark attacked Kelly.

Dr. Dave Ebert with the Pacific Shark Research Center said shark attacks are rare and this one was especially unusual given the timing.

“Usually most [shark attacks] occur between about July and November,” he said Monday. “May is definitely not a month you see many shark attacks."

Ebert added that sharks are most active in the morning and the evening, making this early afternoon attack odd.

Friends said Kelly was from Orange County in Southern California and had traveled the world to surf. He had recently moved to Santa Cruz to start his own board-shaping business. He was known for giving back, helping groups in Kenya and locally.

“Unfortunately we lost such a nice person,” Shalene Petersen of Santa Cruz said.

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