- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

SOLANA BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Authorities kept watch yesterday over a stretch of Southern California beaches, scanning the waters for a shark they believe killed a triathlete a day earlier.

While authorities advised against going in the ocean from north San Diego to Carlsbad, they said they expect to see people heading into the water to escape the region’s summery temperatures.

“We’re not going to make any arrests or anything” if they spot people going into the water, “but we’ll go talk to them,” said David Ott, Solano Beach’s public safety director.

Helicopters searching for signs of the shark that killed triathlete David Martin on Friday will continue scanning the coastline, Solana Beach Lifeguard Capt. Craig Miller said.

Mr. Martin, 66, died on the beach Friday morning after a shark, presumed to be a great white, lifted him out of the water with his legs in its jaws, leaving deep lacerations and shredding Mr. Martin’s black wetsuit.

Mr. Martin, a retired veterinarian, was the first shark fatality in San Diego County since 1994. Prior to that, the last known fatal attack in the area was in 1959.

Even die-hards said word of the attack gave them pause.

“I just got the chills,” said Tom Halmos, 36, a regular surfer who biked down to the cove after the attack. “I’m definitely going to go back out but I think the heart rate will be up the first time I do, that’s for sure.”

Mr. Halmos said he planned to stay on dry land for at least the next few days.

“There will be a million beautiful weekends — what’s one less?” he asked.

“I thought twice only because the waves are so small,” said Lynn Richardson, 63, a retiree who nosed his orange kayak straight out toward Tabletop Reef, where the shark struck.

Experts said the likelihood of finding the shark that attacked Mr. Martin is slim.

Sharks are rare in Southern California, though female great whites sometimes come south from their usual territory in the cooler waters of the central and northern coast to pup. Few make the mistake of attacking humans instead of seals or sea lions, their usual prey.

“It’s just very bad luck for that one man,” said Richard Rosenblatt, a professor emeritus of marine biology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Mr. Rosenblatt said he believed the bite pattern on Mr. Martin’s legs indicated the shark was a great white that may have been 12 feet to 17 feet long. The sharks, the largest ocean predators, can weigh up to 5,000 pounds, according to National Geographic.

The attack was unusual because it took place over a sandy bottom, Mr. Rosenblatt said. Sharks typically attack over rocks, which provide better camouflage.

Solana Beach is 14 miles northwest of San Diego.

The last fatal shark attack in California, according to data from the state Department of Fish and Game, took place on Aug. 15, 2004, off the coast of Mendocino County. The victim was a man diving for shellfish with a friend.

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