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Swimmer killed by great white shark 15-18 feet in length

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

(08-20) 12:43 PDT AVILA BEACH, Calif. (AP) --

A 50-year-old college instructor taking a morning swim bled to death after she was attacked by a great white shark 15 to 18 feet long, preliminary autopsy results showed Wednesday.

Deborah Franzman of Nipomo was killed Tuesday as she swam 75 yards offshore alongside a group of seals. Witnesses reported seeing a large fin as Franzman screamed for help.

Lifeguards pulled Franzman to shore, where she died. Bite marks on her legs were consistent with those seen in previous attacks by great white sharks, San Luis Obispo County sheriff's Lt. Martin Basti said.

Shark expert Robert Lea, present during the autopsy, estimated the fish was between 15 and 18 feet long.

"That's incredibly large," Basti said.

An unknown species of shark was spotted in the area after the attack, Basti said.

ranzman likely bled to death after her left femoral artery was severed in the attack, Basti said.

Franzman's death marked the 10th fatal shark attack in California since 1952 and the first death since 1994, according to state Fish and Game records.

Franzman was a sociology instructor at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. She swam in the area by the Avila Beach Pier several times a week, friend Andrea Sanders said through tears.

"She loved it. She would talk about how fun it was to swim and play with the seals," Sanders said.

Franzman was wearing a full wetsuit and swim fins when she was attacked, Lea said. The state marine biologist said the shark may have mistaken Franzman, silhouetted against the surface, for a seal. The sharks are ambush predators and attack their prey from below.

Avila Beach, located about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles, was closed to swimmers after the attack.

Great white sharks are a protected species in California.

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