A shark killed a 66-year-old swimmer who was training in the sea off California with a group of triathletes, authorities said today.
The man was attacked by what authorities in San Diego County believe was a great white shark at around 7am, a spokesman said.
The man, a local resident whose identity was not immediately released, was taken to a lifeguard station for emergency treatment but was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a statement on the Solana Beach city website.
The injuries on the man’s thighs were made “by what is probably a great white shark”, San Diego County sheriff’s Sergeant Randy Webb said in a statement.
“It looks like the shark came up, bit him, and swam away,” said Solana Beach Deputy Fire Chief Dismas Abelman.
The attack took place about 150 yards (137m) offshore. Several swimmers wearing wetsuits were in a group when the shark attacked, said Solana Beach lifeguard Craig Miller.
Two swimmers were about 20 yards (18m) ahead of the man when they heard him scream for help. They turned around and dragged him back to shore.
Swimmers were ordered out of the water over a 17-mile (27km) stretch around the attack site and county authorities sent up helicopters to scan the waters for the shark.
“The shark is still in the area. We’re sure of that,” Mayor Joe Kellejian said.
Rob Hill, a member of the Triathlon Club of San Diego, said he was running on the beach while about nine other members were in the water when the attack took place.
“They saw him come up out of the water, scream ’Shark’, flail his arms and go back under,” said Mr Hill, who declined to identify the man.
Mr Hill said club members had been meeting at the beach for at least six years and had never seen a shark.
However, he said he recently saw a sea lion on the beach, and speculated that perhaps the shark had been hunting them and got close to shore. The shark may have confused the wetsuited swimmers with his prey, he said.
Solana Beach is 14 miles (22.53km) north-west of San Diego.
Shark attacks are extremely rare. There were 71 confirmed unprovoked cases worldwide last year, up from 63 in 2006, according to the University of Florida. Only one 2007 attack, in the South Pacific, was fatal.
The last fatal shark attack in California, according to data from the state Department of Fish and Game, took place in 2004, when a man skin- diving for abalone was attacked by a great white shark off the coast of Mendocino County.