Shark Attack

Search for Answers After Deadly Shark Attack Near Santa Cruz

A shark expert says the rare attack near Manresa State Beach was unusual because of its timing

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As loved ones and community members mourn the death of a surfer killed in a shark attack in Santa Cruz County over the weekend, officials continue to investigate the rare attack.

Ben Kelly, 26, was attacked around 1:30 p.m. Saturday while surfing with two friends near Manresa State Beach.

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.

“Usually most [shark attacks] occur between about July and November,” he said. “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. 

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

Kelly 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.

“He would donate surfboards for the raffles and it was always towards a good cause, like giving back to families,” Petersen said.

Friends and family of a 26-year-old man killed in a shark attack Saturday just south of Santa Cruz are in shock. Marianne Favro reports.

The attack happened within 100 yards offshore, and a witness flagged down a lifeguard patrolling the area, authorities told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

At the time, the beach was closed to visitors to maintain physical distancing norms during the coronavirus crisis, but swimming and surfing was allowed in the water. As a safety precaution, authorities closed the water 1 mile north and south of the attack until Thursday. Signs have been posted warning beachgoers about the attack.

This was the first deadly shark attack in California in eight years. The last one was in Santa Barbara in 2012.

The last time a shark attack occurred in Santa Cruz was also in 2012, but it was not fatal.

On Monday at nearby Pleasure Point, surfers hit the waves with increased awareness.

“If I see a splash or a fin, of course I pay more attention today than I usually do,” Robert Lindsey of Santa Cruz said.

A surfer was killed in a shark attack off a Santa Cruz beach, state park officials said Saturday.

On the website for his business, Ben Kelly Surfboards, Kelly explained that began shaping surfboards as a boy because it gave him a creative outlet and fueled his love for surfing.

“You should feel stoked each time you enter the water and comfortable on your own board,” he wrote.

The Sentinel reported that on Kelly’s company Instagram page, Aly Thompson, who said she was a resident assistant with Kelly in 2014 at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, posted a comment saying that she is devastated.

“I can’t imagine all that your family, Katie, and all those who loved you are holding right now,” Thompson wrote. “It was an honor to know you and to experience the capacity and ferocity you loved others with. Our year as RAs together was an absolute joy, and I am thankful to have known and experienced life with you in it. Praying for peace that surpasses all understanding and sending so much love.”

On the same post, Jeremy Pedron wrote that he is heartbroken.

“Ben you have always been of the truly kindest & sweetest individuals out there,” Pedron said. “Your love of others always has a felt impact on your community. Your family is in our prayers and our hearts sad. God take care of him for us he deserves the best.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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