Friends, family mourn loss of 26-year-old surfer killed in Santa Cruz County shark attack

Bay Area

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Friends and family are mourning the loss of 26-year-old Ben Kelly, who died from a shark attack on Saturday in Santa Cruz County.

State park officials say Kelly was surfing with two other friends at the time at Sand Dollar Beach, about a mile south of Manresa State Beach parking lot.

“I don’t think I’ve processed it in any way of dealing with the sadness and grief yet,” Todd Hanson said. “But I am very happy to know who he was as a man of God and as a friend and as a husband.”

Todd Hanson is still in disbelief that his friend, 26-year-old Ben Kelly died from a shark attack on Saturday.

Hanson says Kelly dedicated his life to his family and faith.

“Every endeavor that he had whether it was shaping or surfing or his marketing business and all his relationships,” Hanson said. “It was all to serve others because that was part of his faith.”

Kelly was a well known surfer in the Santa Cruz community and had his own company, making and shaping surfboards.

He was surfing with two friends when the attack happened around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“Lifeguard was flagged down by a citizen who said there was some sort of person in distress, shark incident,” Gabriel McKenna said. “Shortly after the lifeguard was able to locate the individual, locate him on the shoreline, immediately requested additional accident and began rendering emergency medical care.

State park officials say he died on scene. The two other surfers were not injured.

“It really just is a tragic event. Our condolences go out to the family,” McKenna said. “I know this is shaking the community.”

State park officials have since closed the stretch of water where the shark attack happened, on top of the county health order that allows people to go into the water from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — but prohibits them from spending the day on the sand.

“We have closed the ocean to all aquatic activity until the 14th of May,” McKenna said. “And that is one mile north and south of where the incident actually occurred.”

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