VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Six-foot waves were breaking when Lucas Ransom, 19, and his longtime buddy Matthew Garcia, 20, arrived at Surf Beach west of Lompoc on Friday morning.
No wind, glassy conditions – they agreed it was going to be a great session for Garcia on his surfboard and Lucas on his beat-up red bodyboard.
Before they plunged into the chilly waters, Ransom pulled out his cell phone.
“You wouldn’t believe these waves, Mom. I can’t wait to get to them,” he told Candace Ransom, who then said have fun, call afterward.
That was the last she heard from the son she described as a fearless athlete with “the sweetest heart.”
They’d been in the waves about 45 minutes when a shark appeared out of nowhere and pulled Ransom under the water, Garcia said. There was no warning. The shark appeared to be about 18 to 20 feet long. Lucas looked at his friend a couple of feet away and said “Help me, dude,” before getting lost in the waves, Garcia said.
“It was very stealth,” he said. “You would have never known there was a shark in the water. It was all really quick.”
The water turned red, he said: “Imagine a river of blood. That’s what the wave looked like for a minute.”
Ransom’s left leg was ripped off at the pelvis, his parents said. Garcia tried to give him chest compressions as he pulled him to shore. But he was bleeding profusely and died before they got there.
Federal and state wildlife officials are working to identify the type of shark that attacked Ransom. A shark expert said Friday that, based on its behavior and Ransom’s injury, it most likely was a great white.
“It takes a shark of massive size and jaw to inflict that kind of injury,” said Andrew Nosal of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
About 75 percent of fatal shark attacks are caused by great whites. Even so, attacks are exceedingly rare, Nosal said. The last fatality in California was in 2008, when a 17-foot shark killed a retired veterinarian who was swimming off Solano Beach.