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08/19/2003 Deborah Franzman (California) ***Fatal***

Shark Attack Survivors News Archive for Shark Attacks in 2003
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The fatal shark attack

Post by sharkbait »

August 20, 2003

Contacts: Chamois Andersen, Information Officer, (916) 657-4132
Carrie Wilson, Marine Biologist, (831) 649-7191
Robert Lea, DFG Shark Expert, (831) 649-2835

The fatal shark attack on Tuesday which caused the unfortunate death of a California resident was likely the result of the avid swimmer having been mistaken for a seal or sea lion, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) officials said Wednesday. Although surfers and swimmers are certainly vulnerable by recreating in the same waters occupied by sharks, attacks remain rare off the West Coast.

The incident, which occurred off Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, had two common traits among the list of 93 unprovoked shark attacks off California's coast. The woman, Deborah Franzman, 50, was swimming on the surface of the water, and she was also in close proximity of several sea lions that were also swimming and feeding near the surface of the ocean. The swimmer likely became the target of the shark after it was attracted to the nearby sea lions, a favored prey item of white sharks.

Sharks are one of the ocean's apex (or top level) predators. As part of the marine food chain, small schooling fishes attract marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and dolphins, which may then attract sharks. Humans in close proximity may be mistaken for a marine mammal.

"Shark incidents are extremely rare," said DFG's Robert Lea, a marine biologist and well-known shark expert. "Sharks have no interest in feeding on humans, but as an ambush predator they may mistake a human in a dark wetsuit for that of a marine mammal." This was likely the case with the swimmer who was wearing a full-body wetsuit, goggles and fins.

This fits a scenario of a shark viewing a silhouette that resembles a marine mammal like a seal. With its ambush-style of predation, sharks typically attack from below, biting only once at first and then leaving its prey to bleed to death before it returns to feed on the carcass.

Off California's coast, many people who have encountered a shark have been lucky, walking away unscathed. Most shark attack victims who have lived to tell about it say they never saw the animal coming. Most of the recorded incidents resulting in an injury have involved the person being able to receive medical attention soon after the attack. "Shark fatalities recorded in California have all involved major trauma," Lea said. Such was the case with Tuesday's attack as the shark bite to Franzman severed her femoral vessels, which led to severe bleeding.

The autopsy, which Lea was involved in, was conducted by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff-Coroner's Department. The autopsy revealed that the bites on the victim were those of a white shark. "The bites were typical and consistent with other white shark inflicted injuries that have been observed. Based on the size and nature of the wounds, we estimate the shark to be between 12 and 18 feet in length."

The following are several shark statistics recorded by DFG:

Since the early 1950s, there have been 10 fatal attacks (including this one) off the West Coast, and a recorded 106 incidents.

The most recent attacks occurred in 2002, when a surfer was attacked in May of that year off Marin County's coast and in November another surfer was attacked off Sonoma County's coast. The most recent fatal incident occurred in December of 1994 when a diver was attacked off San Miguel Island. A suspected attack occurred off the coast of San Diego in April of 1994.

The last fatal attack off San Luis Obispo County coast occurred in April of 1957.
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Swimmer Dies After Apparent Shark Attack

Post by sharkbait »

Swimmer Dies After Apparent Shark Attack
Woman Bitten As She Swims On Surface

AVILA BEACH, Calif. -- A woman swimming with seals near a pier on a picturesque central California beach was killed Tuesday, apparently by a shark attack, authorities said.

The woman, believed to be in her 50s, was swimming about 75 yards offshore in a full wetsuit and swim fins when she was attacked, possibly after being mistaken for a seal, Andersen said.

"Her friend on the beach noticed she was swimming with some seals," Andersen said. "All of a sudden, the seals dispersed rapidly and a large breach of water, this large upwelling of water, occurred in the vicinity of where the woman was swimming. Very indicative of a shark attack."

A 911 caller told a dispatcher that a witness saw "a large fin in the water" and that "something" attacked the woman twice, according to the Sheriff's Department.

The friend screamed for help from lifeguards, who were training nearby. They recovered the body.

"A bunch of local lifeguards come out and drag her in and she was bleeding. It was bad," eyewitness David Abbott, his voice cracking, told KCOY-TV in Santa Maria.

If confirmed as a shark attack, it would be the first such fatal assault in California waters since 1994, according to Fish and Game records. An autopsy was scheduled for later Tuesday or Wednesday, Andersen said.

Robert Lea, a marine biologist for the state, said the attack was consistent with the behavior of a great white shark, a notorious "ambush predator" that strikes from beneath.

"On the surface, she is going to be silhouetted, looking like a marine mammal," Lea said.

The port authority closed the beach, located south of Morro Bay about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Fatal shark attacks are extremely rare.

There have been nine confirmed fatalities in California since record-keeping began in the 1950s, and 106 incidents -- fatal and nonfatal -- along the entire West Coast during the same period, according to Fish and Game statistics.

The victims of the most recent California attacks both survived. A surfer was struck in late November off Sonoma County, and another surfer was attacked off Marin County in May 2002.

Nielsen said swimmers should avoid waters where there are signs that wildlife are feeding.

Fatal shark attacks are rare, but San Diego has had a couple.

In 1994, Michelle von Emster was killed in the water off Sunset Cliffs. Investigators believe it was a great white shark that attacked her. In 1959, a diver was killed off La Jolla Cove.

08/19/2003 Deborah Franzman (California) ***Fatal***

Post by Guest »

8/19/2003 Deborah Franzman 50
Hip & upper thigh bitten, femoral artery severed FATAL
Avila Beach California USA
Swimming, wearing black wetsuit & swim fins
8:15 AM 15' to 18' white shark
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Post by sharkbait »

Shark kills woman in Central Coast attack
50-year-old bitten while swimming among sea lions
Maria Alicia Gaura, Chuck Squatriglia, Chronicle Staff Writers

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Shark Attack

Lifeguards risked all to save victim
Swimmer killed by great white shark 15-18 feet in length

Shark kills woman in Central Coast attack

(08-20) 04:00 PST Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County -- A woman swimming among sea lions in the ocean off the Central Coast town of Avila Beach died Tuesday morning after she was bitten by what authorities believe was a large great white shark.

Deborah B. Franzman, 50, was attacked as she swam alone within sight of beachgoers on the Avila Beach pier and of about 30 lifeguards training on the beach.

The shark struck from below, breaching the surface and tearing most of the tissue from Franzman's left thigh. Although no one saw the entire animal, a witness saw a gray fin in the churning water, and authorities said the nature and severity of the attack left little doubt it was a white shark.

"The bite was fairly massive," said Robert Lea, a marine biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game. "The white shark is one of the few animals that could make a bite that large. From the description witnesses gave, everything indicates" it was a white shark.

Should the autopsy slated for today confirm that Franzman was killed by a shark, it would be the first fatal shark attack along the California coastline since 1994. Two men were attacked by white sharks off Bay Area beaches last year, but both survived.

Despite the animals' fearsome reputation as relentless predators, attacks by great white sharks -- and all sharks, for that matter -- are exceedingly rare. There have been 106 shark attacks along the West Coast since the Department of Fish and Game began keeping statistics in 1952. Just 10 have been fatal.

All of the deaths occurred in California, and at least nine involved great white sharks, officials said.

Authorities closed the picturesque beach in Avila Beach as well as those in Cayucos, Morro Bay, Oceano and Pismo Beach immediately after the 8:15 a.m. attack. The beaches reopened at midday, drawing hundreds of visitors, but authorities barred people from entering the water until further notice.

Avila Beach is a beach town of 2,300 people in San Luis Obispo County 241 miles south of San Francisco. Franzman lived in the nearby town of Nipomo and was a regular at the beach, officials said.

Her teenage son, Alex Franzman, said his mother taught philosophy and ethics at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. She was a strong athlete who swam in the ocean three or four times weekly. She was often joined by friends, but she swam alone Tuesday when none showed up, he said.

Her partner, who declined to comment, watched from shore as Franzman ventured into the sea. Franzman was about 75 yards from shore and 200 yards south of Avila Pier in water roughly 20 feet deep when the attack occurred, officials said. Authorities said she was well within the swimming boundary.

As she swam, more than two dozen local lifeguards were training and competing in shows of skill just north of the pier.

Witnesses told investigators that Franzman, clad in a wetsuit and fins, was swimming among a pod of sea lions when the mammals suddenly vanished and something large and gray breached the water.

A friend of Franzman's screamed, "A shark's got her! A shark's got her," bringing five lifeguards dashing off the pier, said Casey Nielsen, head of the San Luis Harbor District, which has jurisdiction over the beach.

One grabbed a passer-by's cell phone and called 911. The others dove into the water despite having no rescue gear and little idea what might be waiting for them, Nielsen said.

"It was heroism," he said. "They knew someone was bit, and they went into the water and brought her to shore anyway. My first thought would have been 'Stay out of the water.' "

The four men, who could not be reached for comment, pulled Franzman ashore and loaded her into a pickup truck, where they began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and tried to stop the bleeding.

"A bunch of local lifeguards come out and drag her in, and she was bleeding. It was bad," eyewitness David Abbott, his voice cracking, told KCOY-TV in Santa Maria.

Paramedics pronounced Franzman dead at the scene.

Experts said the attack is typical of the white shark, an "ambush predator" that strikes quickly and from below with a devastating bite.

One witness told investigators the animal bit the woman twice, but that could not be confirmed.

"It appears she was bitten once primarily in the left leg, but there also is a wound on the right leg," said Lea of Fish and Game.

Few animals other than the white shark are capable of so large a bite, he said.

The bite in all likelihood severed Franzman's femoral artery, contributing to her death, Lea said. Had the bite missed the artery, she might have survived the attack but would have undoubtedly lost her leg, he added.

Lea said he will not know for sure it was a white shark until he examines the woman's wounds, which also may shed light on the size of the animal.

"We know it's large, and large for a white shark can be anywhere from 12 to 18 feet," he said. Such an animal could easily top two tons, he said.

Sharks do not prey upon humans, Lea said. Instead, researcher believe most attacks are "a case of mistaken identity" in which the animals mistake humans - - especially those wearing fins or riding surfboards -- for seals or sea lions, their primary prey.

The most recent California shark attack occurred last year on Thanksgiving Day, when Michael Casey was bitten by a 16-foot white shark while enjoying the surf at Salmon Creek Beach in Sonoma County.

Casey, a Santa Rosa deputy city attorney, was bitten at least twice in the legs; the resulting wounds required more than 80 staples to close.

Another surfer, Lee Fontan of Bolinas, was bitten four times by a 12- to 14- foot great white on April 30, 2002, near Stinson Beach in Marin County.


E-mail the writers at mgaura@sfchronicle.com and csquatriglia@sfchronicle.com.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 253292.DTL
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