Del Mar beaches remain closed to swimming and surfing after man was bitten by shark

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

“He was shouting, ‘I’ve been bitten by a shark!’ We could see blood in the water,” said Kevin Barrett, who was swimming in the same group as the victim.

SAN DIEGO — Del Mar beaches remained closed Monday for swimming following a shark encounter Sunday morning.

A 46-year-old swimmer was bitten in the torso, left arm and hand. He is expected to survive. He was swimming with the North County Ocean Swimmers at the time of the incident. 

“He was shouting, ‘I’ve been bitten by a shark!’ We could see blood in the water, he said he had been bitten on his chest,” said swimmer Kevin Barrett. He rushed to help the victim. 

“I didn’t know what I was swimming into. Was there going to be chunks out of him? Would we see a limb or a body part? I just didn’t know,” he added. 

The shark encounter happened just before 9:00 a.m. about 100 yards offshore near Lifeguard Headquarters in Del Mar.

Barrett said he and another swimmer helped get the man back to shore. They were able to use a nearby surfer’s board as a gurney. He said the whole time, the victim was very calm. 

“He was amazingly calm,” said Barrett. “You often hear of victims panicking, drowning their rescuer. I didn’t know what I was going out into, but he was incredibly calm, just explaining what happened.”

According to lifeguards, the victim went through surgery and was in the intensive care unit Monday.

Meanwhile, researchers with the Shark Lab at California State Long Beach took water samples near where the shark encounter occurred. 

“We were able to recover some genetic material from the wetsuit that the swimmer was wearing at the time,” said Zach Merson, a field technician with the Shark Lab at California State Long Beach. “Hopefully we can get enough genetic material from the wetsuit in order to get a genetic fingerprint of that specific shark.” 

He said researchers want to find out if the shark responsible for biting the swimmer is just passing through the Del Mar area, or if it is lingering. Right now the policy is to close the swimming area for two days, but he said they don’t know if there’s any scientific basis behind that policy.

He said the water samples will be analyzed for the next several weeks. Results will not be available for months. 

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Merson said Del Mar is known for having a lot of juvenile white sharks. They feed on stingrays and flatfish, which hang out near the shore. 

He said it is unusual for sharks to bite a human.

“Bites occur pretty infrequently, especially when you take into account the number of people in the water as well as the number of sharks we have,” he said. “We have an aggregation here in Del Mar, which means we have a number of sharks lingering for long periods of time. But there’s no increased risk at sites with these aggregations compared to sites without these aggregations.”

“This is white shark habitat. No matter what precautions people take, incidents will happen,” he said. “But just like when you go in the woods, and you know there’s bears, knowing proper procedures can help you stay safe.”

He said if you encounter a shark, you should try to calmly leave the water if you can. He said turn to face your body toward the shark, so it knows you’ve seen it. He said white sharks are ambush predators. They are less likely to bite if they know you have seen them already. 

He recommends swimming in groups, and near a lifeguard tower just in case of an emergency. 

He said California Fish and Wildlife will be formally investigating this incident. The agency will confirm what kind of shark and the size. 

Del Mar closes beaches for swimming and surfing after shark attack (June 2, 2024)

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.