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Body surfer killed by shark at Santa Barbara County beach

October 22, 2010 | 12:53 pm

A body surfer was fatally attacked Friday morning by a shark on a beach along the northern Santa Barbara County coast, officials said.

Details were sketchy, but a spokeswoman for Vandenberg Air Force Base told The Times that Santa Barbara County coroner's investigators are at the beach and that the investigation is being handled in conjunction with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

The attack occurred at the coastal hamlet of Surf, which is on the Vandenberg Air Force Base. In response, the base has closed Surf, Wall and Minuteman beaches for 72 hours due to the attack.

The Santa Maria Times reported that a body surfer was fatally bitten by a shark. The paper said the body surfer was not connected with the military base and might be a college student.

The Lompoc Record said that in 2008, a shark took a bite out of a surfer's board at Surf Beach, prompting officials to temporarily close that section of coastline.

Surf is located north of Santa Barbara and west of Lompoc on Vandenberg Air Force Base.

In April 2008, a  17-foot shark killed a retired veterinarian who was swimming in the ocean off Solano Beach.

Lifeguards said the shark may have been a great white and the swimmer, a dedicated triathlete who regularly swam off the San Diego County beach, was wearing a wetsuit and may have been mistaken for a seal. A fellow swimmer who witnessed the attack said there was an extraordinary boil in the water before the shark struck, biting 66-year-old Dave Martin in the legs.

-- Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles, Steve Chawkins in Surf and Catherine Saillant in Ventura