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Search continues for shark that attacked boy in Encinitas

Search continues for shark that attacked boy in Encinitas
Encinitas senior lifeguard Max Wittmack runs up to the top of the bluff at Beacon's Beach on Saturday where a sign is displayed cautioning beachgoers following a shark attack earlier in the day. (Bill Wechter/San Diego Union Tribune)

Lifeguards and police were using personal watercraft and aerial surveillance Sunday to continue their search for a large shark that attacked a 13-year-old boy near Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas on Saturday morning, leaving him with traumatic upper-body injuries.

There have been no reports of a shark in the area since the attack occurred, but Encinitas lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles said people are not yet being allowed to go back into the water.

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“We imagine it could be a great white shark, but we don’t know for sure,” Giles said during a Sunday morning news conference.

The injured boy was listed in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Rady Children’s Hospital on Sunday. Giles had no further information on the teenager, who was diving for lobsters on the opening the day of the season with his mother nearby on the beach when he was attacked.

Swimming, surfing or diving is prohibited from Ponto Beach in southern Carlsbad to Swami’s Beach in Encinitas through Monday morning, officials said. That stretch of coastline remains open to the public, however, as long as they stay out of the water.

Giles said Carlsbad police plan to use a drone to search for the shark, while lifeguards on personal watercraft continue to search in the water.

Authorities posted 70 signs on Saturday warning people about the shark danger in the area, but Giles said 20 to 30 of the signs have already been stolen, probably as souvenirs.

He said it’s a priority to determine what kind of shark attacked the boy, stressing that such attacks are highly unusual even though thousands of sharks frequent the North County coastline.

“We have so many sharks out here in the water that are un-threatening to the public,” he said.

He said Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, was scheduled to come to North County on Sunday to speak with witnesses and try to determine what kind of shark attacked the boy and why it was in the area.

Making that determination will help authorities better understand the behavior patterns of sharks and what risks people face in the region’s waters.

Witnesses described the shark as being about 11 feet long, based on its silhouette in the water, Giles said

He said the boy was fortunate that an off-duty state lifeguard and an off-duty Oceanside police officer were nearby in the water at the time of the attack. They pulled the boy into a kayak and applied pressure to his wounds.

“They played a significant part in helping this young man and possibly saving his life,” Giles said.

While there have been a dozen shark attacks in the region since 2000, this is the first in Encinitas in at least 30 years, Giles said.

The last fatal attack was on April 25, 2008, when retired veterinarian David Martin, 66, was killed by a great white shark while on a triathlon training swim off Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach.

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3:55 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from authorities about the attack.

This article was originally posted at 12:05 p.m.

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