Great white shark killed California bodyboarder, report concludes

A bodyboarder was attacked by a great white shark in central California on Christmas Eve and died within minutes, official reports have concluded.

Tomas Abraham Butterfield, 42, was bitten in the head, chest and shoulder in the Morro Bay attack and died from "complications of multiple penetrating blunt force traumatic injuries," according to a coroner's report, The Tribune of San Luis Obispo County reported Tuesday.

A piece of what appeared to be a shark's tooth was found on his body, the Tribune said, citing a report by a sheriff's detective that was among documents released to the paper under a public records request.

The size or age of the shark wasn’t estimated, but the radius of one bite mark was as large as 16 inches, according to the detective's report. The average length of an adult great white shark is 15 feet, according to National Geographic

Butterfield was attacked on Dec. 24, 2021, while bodyboarding just north of Morro Rock. The Sacramento man had been visiting his mother and brother for the holidays.

Butterfield was pulled from the waves after a surfer saw him face down in the water, still tethered to his bodyboard. He died at the scene.

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In the coroner's report, a pathologist noted that Butterfield had a fractured skull, crushed ribs and other injuries, including to the inferior vena cava, a large vein that carries blood from the torso and lower body to the heart.

Dr. Joye Carter said Butterfield died within minutes.

A DNA sample taken during the autopsy confirmed that the injuries were from a great white shark, according to Mike Harris of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which assisted in the investigation.

It wasn't clear whether the shark attacked just once or made several lunges.

Morro Bay is about 200 miles north of Los Angeles.

Great white sharks have been involved in most shark attacks off the California coast, yet they still are "extremely rare," according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Since 1950, there have been 202 "shark incidents" – where a shark makes any contact with a human or human equipment such as a surfboard – in California, and 179 of those were by white sharks. Of those overall incidents, 15 were fatal and all involved white sharks. 

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