Vandenberg beaches remain closed after shark attack

October 24, 2010

The beaches near Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County continue to be closed following Friday’s fatal shark attack on a young surfer. [Santa Maria Times]

“Right now, that’s a safety precaution,” said Vandenberg spokesman Jeremy Eggers. “We’ll re-evaluate that closure as time goes on, but right now the base beaches are closed for 72 hours.”

By Friday afternoon, base officials said signs had been posted advising of the closure, and that crews would monitor the area by walking along the shoreline and riding all-terrain vehicles. Santa Barbara County crews also will conduct helicopter patrols.

Based on a memorandum of understanding with VAFB, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau will conduct the death investigation due to the incident occurring off the beach and in the water. The Santa Barbara County Parks Department is posting warning signs at county beaches in the Jalama and Guadalupe beach areas.

Two Coast Guard vessels patrolled  the coastline for more than four hours after the attack.

Friday’s victim, who has been identified as Lucas McKaine Ransom, 19, of Romoland, was in the water with a friend between 9 and 9:30 a.m. when a shark bit and severed his leg. The UCSB student then disappeared under the water about 100 yards off Surf Beach at Vandenberg.

HIs close Matthew Garcia witnessed the attack and brought Ransom’s body, still attached to his boogie board, to shore.

In September 2008, a shark bit a surfer’s board at Surf Beach and base officials issued a 48-hour warning to beach users.

Base officials said at the time that they believed it was the first shark incident off Vandenberg and sought recommendations from other coastal parks about their policies for beach closures.

“Jalama Beach rarely ever has shark sightings,” said Clay Garland, head ranger.

In 12 years he recalled two reports of shark sightings at Jalama, while Surf Beach is known as a shark area, he said.