Shark in Deadly Morro Bay Christmas Attack Was a Great White

A coroner’s report and DNA tests identified the shark that killed a bodyboarder in Morro Bay on Christmas Eve as a great white
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A county coroner’s report has confirmed that bodyboarder Tomas Abraham Butterfield was killed by a shark in Morro Bay on Christmas Eve morning, and a DNA analysis performed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has identified the shark as a great white.

The report, written by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Detective-Coroner William Miller and obtained by the San Luis Obispo Tribune, concludes that Butterfield died from “complications of multiple penetrating blunt force traumatic injuries” while bodyboarding at a surf area known as “The Pit” shortly after 10 a.m. on December 24, 2021.

Miller, who the Tribune reports arrived at the scene about two hours after Butterfield’s body was discovered, also stated, “It appeared that there were about three different primary bite zones: right shoulder, right side thoracic (chest) cavity, and head. The wound to his thoracic cavity appeared to be in at least two distinct arcs, indicating the shark likely re-set his purchase on the decedent.”

The autopsy, performed in coordination with pathologist Dr. Joye Carter, also recovered a piece of “what appeared to be a shark’s tooth contained between the decedent and his wetsuit in the area of his back.”

DNA tests performed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife determined that the shark was a great white, approximately 16 feet in length.

Butterfield died within minutes of the attack and the autopsy showed no signs of drug or alcohol use, or foul play.

Butterfield is the second victim of a fatal shark attack in San Luis Obispo County in the last several decades, John Ugoretz, environmental program manager with Fish and Wildlife’s marine study division, told the Los Angeles Times.

“Shark incidents are extremely rare,” he said. “Since the 1950s, there have been 15 fatalities in the state of California.”


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