April 28, 2008 — -- The family of a man who died Friday after a great white shark attack in waters off a San Diego beach said the tragedy would not squelch its love for the sea.
"I went surfing out there yesterday," said Jeff Martin, the son of retired veterinarian Dave Martin who died on Tide Beach Friday morning after a shark nearly severed his leg. "And I plan to take my boys out tomorrow if it's open."
"He died doing what he liked, surrounded by friends, in a place he loved. As a Christian family we believe our dad is in heaven," he added.
California officials are continuing their search for the shark they believe attacked the 66-year-old Martin as he swam with a group of nine triathletes. But so far they have found no signs of it.
The San Diego-based U.S. Coast Guard continued patrolling the beaches north of the city, and this weekend the Coast Guard added more flights to watch out for sharks.
Normally, they see a lot of seals, dolphins and occasionally whales -- sharks are rare.
"I have seen probably two in my three years flying here," said U.S. Coast Guard pilot Lt. Jeremy Denning.
If the pilots see a shark, they can report it to lifeguards on shore, who can then clear the water.
"With the weather getting warmer, a lot of people are coming out and they are definitely trying to get the word out to everybody to be safe," Denning said.
Authorities now are convinced the shark that attacked Martin was a 15- to 16-foot great white because of the marks it left on Martin's legs.
"All sharks — just as humans — have finger prints. In a sense, the fingerprints of sharks are their teeth," said shark researcher Ralph Collier.
California authorities closed 17 miles of San Diego County beach during the weekend as they searched for the shark.
Martin was attacked around 7 a.m., according to the Associated Press. At the time, Martin was swimming with a group that included nine triathletes from the Triathlon Club of San Diego, according to a statement on the Solana Beach city Web site.
A Solana Beach resident for 38 years, Martin had been with the club for three years and was in the middle of the group when a large shark attacked him 150 yards off shore before vanishing.
Martin's friends immediately pulled him out of the water and onto the beach.
"Had it not been for his wet suit, it might have severed his legs," said Robert Blase, who was surfing 200 yards down the beach from where the incident occurred. "The lifeguards were on the scene immediately giving CPR as soon as he hit the water's edge," Blase said on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition."
But their quick action could not save Martin from several deep wounds to the legs. He had lost too much blood and the retired doctor was pronounced dead on the beach 49 minutes after the attack.
"I think it was kind of like pure shock," said Blase, who made his way toward Martin after hearing the cries of a woman from down the beach.
Blase, who frequents Tide Beach, said shark sightings are extremely rare in the area, though he has seen small ones before.
Authorities now are looking for a large shark between 12- to 17-feet long. They believe it's a great white shark because of the type of injuries Martin sustained.
"This almost certainly was a great white shark," said Richard Rosenblatt of the Scripps Institution for Oceanography. "They normally feed on seals, and they attack from below. [They] make a powerful rush and bite, then pull away."
Rosenblatt added that Martin was "pushed up [and] out of the water" during the attack.
Coastal cities along San Diego's North and Central County will remain on high alert throughout the weekend from south Carlsbad State Beach to Torrey Pines State Beach. The beaches in Solana Beach are closed and will be patrolled throughout the weekend, but they are expected to reopen on Monday morning.
While the city is taking precautions, it reminded residents attacks like Martin's are unusual.
"Even though these instances are a rare occurrence, we should remember that the coastline is a marine environment and it is a shark's natural habitat," said David Ott, Solana Beach City manager and public safety director, according to the city's Web site. "We want people to remain calm and have respect for nature."
In fact, the last fatal shark attack in southern California was in 1959 and since 1926 only 96 attacks have occurred worldwide; seven were fatal.
Blase said he certainly will adhere to the warnings, but he won't let the fatal attack keep him from the beach.
"I'll respect the lifeguards request and stay out of the water for 72 hours, but I'll be back in the water on Monday," he said.