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Sacramento man killed in Morro Bay shark attack is identified by family

A sign with the words FATAL SHARK ATTACK near a beach
A sign advises about a shark attack Friday in Morro Bay, Calif., where a boogie boarder was killed.
(David Middlecamp / San Luis Obispo Tribune)

The man who was killed in a shark attack in Morro Bay on Christmas Eve was a quiet, introverted Sacramento resident who loved the water, according to his uncle.

Speaking to The Times by phone, Grant Butterfield identified 41-year-old Tomas Butterfield as the victim of the attack, which occurred around 10:45 a.m. Dec. 24.

He has not yet been officially identified by the San Luis Obispo County coroner’s office. Authorities previously said the victim was 31 years old.

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Tomas Butterfield was born in Pittsburg, Calif., his uncle said. When his parents divorced, he and his brother, Benjamin, stayed with their mother, Maria, who moved with her sons a few times before settling in Ketchikan, Alaska, where Tomas attended high school.

“I think that’s probably where his love of the ocean and fishing, any water, probably developed — up in Alaska,” Grant Butterfield said.

After the divorce, Tomas was close with both of his parents, his uncle said. Maria eventually settled in Morro Bay. Scott Butterfield, Tomas and Benjamin’s father, lives in Sacramento.

At the time of his death, Tomas was living in Sacramento and worked for his father, his uncle said.

“He was down in Morro to spend the holiday weekend with his mom, and his brother, Ben, came over from Sanger,” Grant Butterfield said. “He went to see his mom there on that Thursday. Friday morning he decided to go out to the ocean and didn’t make it back.”

A 31-year-old man was killed by a shark off the Morro Bay coast in what is believed to be San Luis Obispo County’s first such fatality in 18 years.

Grant Butterfield said he was at a Christmas Eve dinner when he got a call from Tomas’ father, who told him what happened. He left the dinner almost immediately and called Benjamin to see if there was anything he could do.

Tomas’ parents and brother have been devastated by the loss but are coping, Grant said.

“When I talked to Ben today he said he’s doing better,” he said. “His mother is deeply, deeply invested in the Catholic Church down there. She has that support system for her. Scott’s broken into a thousand little pieces.”

Tomas was boogie boarding at the time of the attack and was brought to shore by a surfer, according to authorities. Firefighters and police reached the scene at 10:48 a.m., and paramedics declared him dead.

A state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist was on hand to determine the type and size of the shark, officials said. A Morro Bay harbor official said the attack probably involved a great white shark.

The incident is believed to be San Luis Obispo County’s first fatal shark attack in 18 years.


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