VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A shark attack at an Air Force base beach has claimed the life of an experienced 39-year-old surfer, following months of frequent shark sightings along the central California coast.
Francisco Javier Solorio Jr., of Orcutt, was bitten in his upper torso while he was surfing with a friend who witnessed the attack.
They were in the ocean off the coastal Vandenberg Air Force Base, on Surf Beach in Lompoc, the Santa Barbara County sheriff's department said in a statement.
"His friend ended up swimming over and pulling him from the water where he received first aid," said sheriff's Sgt. Mark A. Williams. Solorio was pronounced dead at the scene.
Surf Beach, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, was also the site of an October 2010 fatal attack. Lucas Ransom, a 19-year-old student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, died when a shark nearly severed his leg as he body-boarded.
The type of shark involved and other details of the latest death were under investigation.
Death by shark attack is rare. An average of 65 shark attacks occur each year around the world that typically result in two or three deaths, according to the Pew Environment Group.
The Air Force said Solorio was not affiliated with the base, which allows public access to some of its beaches. All beaches on the base's coastline will be closed for at least 72 hours as a precaution, Col. Nina Armagno said.
No shark warning signs were posted Tuesday at Surf Beach, said Lt. Erik Raney. Beaches don't typically post such notices unless the location had a recent shark sighting, he said.
"We've had shark sightings up and down the Santa Barbara coastline pretty frequently recently," said Raney, adding that the sightings are publicized.
Friends said Solorio had ridden the waves off the Vandenberg beach since he was a young boy.
"He was a really good surfer," friend Nathan Winkles told KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara.
Last month, warning signs were posted at Santa Barbara Harbor, about 65 miles southeast of Surf Beach, after a 14-foot great white shark was spotted by a surfer.
In July, a man escaped injury near Santa Cruz after being thrown from his kayak by a great white shark that bit through the vessel. An almost identical incident occurred off the coast of Cambria in May.
Hundreds of miles south near the coast of San Diego, a 15-foot great white shark is believed to have killed triathlete David Martin in 2008.