Surfer KILLED by great white shark after riding the waves at beach CLOSED during COVID-19 pandemic (VIDEO)
Authorities had kept the beach closed during the day as part of attempts to curb the spread of COVID-19, but experienced surf addict Ben Kelly could not resist heading off the shore of the North Carolina coast – despite footage showing schools of sharks in the vicinity just days earlier.
Rescuers could not save the 26-year-old Santa Cruz resident, who was around 100 yards from land when he was attacked. He tragically died from his injuries after being brought back to the beach.
"I was filming the sharks a week before," said fellow surfer Raymond Silver, who flew a 360-camera over the sea to provide panoramic views showing the deadly sharks near the surface of the water.
"They are out in numbers, very large and close to the shore.
"Now is not the time to go swimming."
Silver was among the wave-seekers to pay tribute to the married Kelly, who was a popular surfboard shaper with his own Instagram page dedicated to the boards he loved.
"My eyes are always scouting for the those marginally surfable little sections that nine out of ten surfers would for sure pass up," he wrote before his death.
"For me, those are the most fun. Do we even need another excuse to go surf alone?"
Fatal shark attacks are rare along the coast, but the attack has caused the beach to be shut at all hours for five days along a section where great whites tend to breed rather than hunt.
Although coastguards are yet to confirm the type of shark that killed Kelly, local reports say the two most recent recorded attacks were both by a great white.
Authorities are said to have taken three days to identify the body of 50-year-old Randy Fry and assess that he had been mauled by a 17-foot great white in August 2004, and 28-year-old Omar Conger was reportedly killed almost 19 years earlier at nearby Pigeon Point.
Silver said he had spotted six great white sharks within a 500 square foot area at Seacliff State Beach last Tuesday.
"They are juveniles ranging from six to 12 feet long," he observed.
"These majestic animals do not appear to be in hunting mode.
"Instead, they are hanging out in the warm surface water fairly close to shore.
"We believe that they are congregating... to hunt fish and then venture to the surface later in the day to warm up."
The State Parks authority gave its "deepest sympathy" to Kelly's family and said warning signs for beachgoers had been posted within a one-mile radius of the incident.
Visitors who observe social distancing guidelines around the pandemic will be allowed to walk or bike on the beach again from Wednesday.