GREAT WHITE SHARK ATTACK: Morro Bay bodyboarder's autopsy reveals horrifying injuries
A 42-year-old man who died in a Morro Bay shark attack last Christmas was fatally bitten by a great white shark on multiple parts of his body, according to the coroner’s report and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The report detailing the December 24 attack that killed Tomas Abraham Butterfield of Sacramento was written by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's detective William Miller and was released as part of a public records request.
According to Miller's report, Butterfield died from "complications of multiple penetrating blunt force traumatic injuries" when he was bodyboarding in a surf area known as 'the Pit', just north of Morro Rock, California. "It appeared that there were about three different primary bite zones: right shoulder, right side thoracic (chest) cavity, and head," Miller wrote. "The wound to his thoracic cavity appeared to be in at least two distinct arcs, indicating the shark likely re-set his purchase on the decedent."
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Miller noted that during the autopsy, performed in coordination with pathologist Dr Joye Carter, they found a piece of "what appeared to be a shark’s tooth contained between the decedent and his wetsuit in the area of his back." The size or age of the shark wasn't estimated, but the radius of one bite mark was as large as 16 inches (40.64 centimeters), according to the detective's report.
It is unclear from the report whether the shark’s teeth marks indicated a tugging effect on the bodyboarder after the first contact, which caused the re-set of the grasp, or if Butterfield was attacked multiple times, meaning the shark circled back. The report also didn’t find any evidence of a medical incident related to Butterfield’s condition, and no drugs or prescription medication was found in his system. As per the report, there is no evidence of criminal activity or foul play.
As per Miller's report, Butterfield was on vacation at his mother's Morro Bay home when the fatal incident took place. The 42-year-old man was pulled from the waves after a surfer saw him face down in the water, still tethered to his bodyboard. He died at the scene.
In the coroner's report, a pathologist noted that Butterfield’s wounds consisted of three injuries to the right side of the head — including fractures of the right temporal bones and right side of the skull. Other injuries included crushed areas of the right and left ribs, an opened abdominal cavity and injuries "of the inferior vena cava", a large vein that carries blood from the torso and lower body to the right side of the heart. The cause of death is determined to be from the blunt force trauma that took Butterfield’s life in "minutes".
A DNA sample taken during the autopsy confirmed that the injuries were from a great white shark, according to Mike Harris of California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which assisted in the investigation.
Miller in his report noted that items from Butterfield's vehicle collected into evidence were returned to the family. "On December 30, I made arrangements to meet with the decedent’s brother and mother and return the items recovered from the vehicle," wrote Miller. The detective noted the family wanted to learn all they could about what happened and collect his possessions.
"I was eventually able to get the wetsuit and small tooth fragment returned from (Fish and Wildlife)," Miller wrote. "The body board and fins were recovered from (evidence storage), and along with the wetsuit, were eventually turned over to (the family). I later returned the (shark’s) tooth fragment directly to the decedent’s brother at his request."