Man killed in shark attack in Morro Bay, California identified

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Morro Bay Shark Attack

An apparent great white shark killed a boogie-board in Morro Bay on Christmas Eve 2021. Here’s what we know:

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Friends and family identified the man killed in a shark attack in Morro Bay on Christmas Eve as a Sacramento resident who enjoyed the ocean, especially fishing and boogie boarding.

Several Facebook posts and a family member who spoke to The Tribune identified Tomas Butterfield as the victim of the attack, which occurred around 10:40 a.m. Friday in the water near The Pit area of ​​Morro Strand State Beach, north of Morro Rock.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Coroner is performing an autopsy and has yet to release the victim’s name, although the next of kin have been notified. Authorities have released few details of the incident.

Grant Butterfield, Tomas’ uncle, said in a telephone conversation that he learned from the victim’s father, his brother Scott of Sacramento, what happened on the day of the incident.

Grant said his nephew, who he believes to be 41, lived in downtown Sacramento.

Tomas was visiting his mother, Maria, in Morro Bay around Christmas when he went out bodyboarding alone on Christmas Eve morning.

“My brother (Scott) called and I saw his name appear on my screen, and I thought, ‘Oh, he just called to wish us a Merry Christmas.’ But that wasn’t it, ”Butterfield said of her nephew’s death. “I probably learned about (the fatal attack) eight hours after the fact.”

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Tomas Butterfield of Sacramento was killed by a shark while bodyboarding north of Morro Rock on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021. Butterfield grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, and loved the ocean, according to his friends and his family, especially fishing and boogie. baording. Courtesy of Grant Butterfield

Butterfield said he didn’t find out precisely what happened to Tomas during his last moments in the water.

Tomas’ brother Ben Butterfield of Sanger, who he was extremely close to, had just arrived in Morro Bay for the family reunion, and with their mother they went to pick up Tomas along the beach, Grant said. Butterfield.

“From what I understood, Ben and Maria went to the beach looking for him,” Grant Butterfield said. “They ended up going to The Pit over there and seeing all the rescue workers and probably a bunch of other people on the beach and thought the worst, and that was the worst, obviously.”

A woman surfing saw Butterfield’s empty surfboard, then found him face down in the water, said Eric Endersby, manager of Morro Bay Harbor. The woman brought him to the beach and the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol responded to the incident with the town’s police and fire department.

However, Butterfield was already dead by the time medical staff reached him, Endersby said. The woman who found Butterfield has not seen the shark attack, and no one has yet come forward to say they witnessed the encounter, he said.

The harbor patrol has closed waters under its jurisdiction for 24 hours, and a sign warning beach goers to enter the water at their own risk will remain in place during the New Years holidays, Endersby said.

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A sign in a beach parking lot announces that the water is closed at Morro Strand on December 24, 2021, after a fatal shark attack. David Middlecamp [email protected]

Uncle remembers ‘Tom’

Grant Butterfield said his nephew didn’t speak much, but once you got to know him he was getting heated and had a subtle sense of humor.

“I don’t want to call him shy,” Grant said. “He was a tough guy to know, but once you were his friend you had him.”

Butterfield said Scott and Maria were divorced and Maria moved several times during her childhood, living part of her childhood in Ketchikan, Alaska, where Tomas attended high school.

“When my brother and his mother got divorced, there was a lot of displacement,” said Grant Butterfield. “Her mother would go on vacation somewhere and fall in love with the place and eventually settle there. So there was a lot of travel. They ended up in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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Tomas Butterfield of Sacramento was killed by a shark while bodyboarding north of Morro Rock on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021. Butterfield grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, and loved the ocean, according to his friends and his family, especially fishing and boogie. baording. Courtesy of Grant Butterfield

Tomas, who was not married, had recently worked for his father at a medical laboratory equipment repair company in Sacramento.

Grant Butterfield said Tomas enjoyed fishing, boogie boarding and golf, and stayed close to his brother.

“They were kind of like opposites,” Grant Butterfield said. “Ben was the kind of outgoing high school quarterback that (Ben) was, by the way, in Ketchikan. Tomas was very calm and had a wry sense of humor. If you could make him laugh out loud, you were a winner. “

Grant added, “I saw pictures (on social media) of Tom and Ben on the golf course somewhere, everywhere they were golfing. Every time Ben and Tom were together, doing something like fishing, golfing or whatever, I would learn what these boys were doing. … I wouldn’t be surprised if they spoke almost every day.

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Tomas Butterfield of Sacramento was killed by a shark while bodyboarding north of Morro Rock on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021. Butterfield grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, and loved the ocean, according to his friends and his family, especially fishing and boogie. baording. Courtesy of Grant Butterfield

Grant said he regularly sees his nephew at family reunions during the holidays, but is not in regular contact with him.

Tomas loved the ocean, and although he had lived inland lately, he loved to visit and get out in the water when he could. Grant said he wasn’t sure if he surfed, but knew he was an avid boogie-boarder.

Tomas’ father Scott declined an interview request via Grant, who said: “He’s not ready yet.”

“Maria is deeply invested in her church which helps people surround her,” Grant said. “The Catholic community, I am sure, supports it.

Grant said he hoped his nephew’s death had gone as quickly as possible and was sudden and painless.

“I hope this fish was the biggest (expletive) thing in the ocean, and Tomas didn’t even know it,” Grant said.

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A sign in the Morro Rock parking lot warns visitors of the recent shark attack. Several surfers returned to the water on Tuesday, December 28, 2021. David Middlecamp [email protected]

Friends and family describe Butterfield as “a good human being”

Friends and family remembered Butterfield as “one of a kind” and described on social media how much they would miss him.

Photos posted by relatives show Butterfield aboard boats, holding large fish, spending time at the beach with family and friends.

CJ Franke, a longtime friend of Butterfield, posted a memory of him on Facebook that said he “did what he loved” when he died.

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Tomas Butterfield of Sacramento was killed by a shark while bodyboarding north of Morro Rock on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021. Butterfield grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, and loved the ocean, according to his friends and his family, especially fishing and boogie. baording. Courtesy of Grant Butterfield

Franke told The Tribune that she and Butterfield have been friends for 22 years, since they met in Ketchikan.

“He was my first friend up there,” Franke said in a Facebook post. “We kept in touch every week and he has become one of my closest friends and my favorite tennis partner.”

She said Butterfield’s death was particularly sad because he was “finally flourishing”.

“He was finally in a good headspace, and I was so proud of him,” Franke said. “Share how good a human being and a funny guy he was because he was our Tom. One of a kind!”

Another friend, Corrie Ratzat, wrote in a Facebook post that she went to school with Butterfield in Ketchikan.

“I want our community here to know who he was. Tom was a great guy, ”she wrote. “Ben wants everyone to know that Tom died doing what he loved.”

“He was a water guy. … In the ocean here, in the pool or on a boat in Alaska. That’s what Tom loved, ”Ratzat added. “It was not a random tourist who did not know how to navigate the water.”

Ratzat said his family appreciates all the support they have received.

“Tom’s family is strong in their faith,” she wrote. “They know Tom is in a good position. Please share his name and know that Ben and his mother, Maria are doing well.

“They were overwhelmed by the love and support of our community here on the central coast and beyond the gratitude to the woman, Rebecca, who they believe was brought to Tom to bring him in, so that ‘they can have closure,’ she said.

This story was originally published 29 December 2021 13:08.

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing, the San Luis Obispo County government and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She became a writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. Lindsey is originally from California and raised in the Midwest and graduated from DePaul and Northwestern Universities.


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