A surfer in northern California was killed by a shark on Saturday, creating yet another reason the beaches are closed. According to a report by KRON-TV, 26-year-old Ben Kelly took the waves in Santa Cruz near Monterey Bay when the attack occurred. That stretch of beach is now completely closed for at least five days.
Sand Dollar Beach in Monteray Bay may be one of the only beaches that is closed right now for a reason other than the coronavirus pandemic. Local authorities pronounced the surfer dead on the scene, and immediately closed a 1-mile stretch of beach around the area. They noted that this was not the only shark-sighting in nearby shallow waters recently, and others agree. Eric Mailander, a photographer for KRON-TV said that he saw at least 15 great white sharks swimming dangerously close to the shore that morning.
#BREAKING : A shark attack occurred today at Sand Dollar Beach in Santa Cruz County. This beach is next to Manresa State Beach south of Aptos. No immediate information is available on the medical status of the victim. Attack happened within 100 yards of the shore. @kron4news pic.twitter.com/FPkOaQjwcv— Amy Larson (@AmyLarson25) May 9, 2020
Kelly's attack reportedly took place about a mile south of the Manresa State Beach parking lot. Kelly was a surfboard maker, but few other details about his life have been revealed to the public. State park officials responded to the call about Kelly's attack at approximately 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon.
TMZ reports that the beaches are closed after Kelly's attack, but not completely. People are banned from swimming or sunbathing on the beach, but water sports such as boating, jet skiing and kayaking are curiously not included in the ban. Still, authorities said that these activities are "highly discouraged" given the recent sightings.
Even before that, Santa Cruz County had some unique rules in place about social distancing on the beach. To help combat the coronavirus pandemic, the county had reportedly banned any activities on the sand, however, it had deemed water activities like swimming and surfing to be safe. For that reason, Kelly was technically not breaking the new restrictions with his surfing trip on Saturday.
Great white shark sightings are not uncommon in Santa Cruz County, especially during this time of hear. However, attacks on humans are still very rare. Mailander told KRON-TV that he has seen dozens of sharks in recent days, and a particularly large number on Saturday. Mailander regularly takes aerial photos of the bay using a drone.
The local community is in shock as they mourn Kelly, they told KRON-TV. One resident told reporters: "Tomorrow is Mother's Day, there's a mother who lost her child in an accident that seems so outrageous compared to what's going on in the world."
"Just to think of a 26-year-old dying is horrible to me, terrifying," added another. "It makes me horribly sad. I love the ocean and I hate for people to be scared of it."