PACIFIC GROVE — Police in Pacific Grove closed beaches Wednesday after a man was attacked and seriously injured by a shark off a popular Monterey Bay beach, then pulled ashore by beachgoers.
The attack, which experts said was a rare event, happened near Lovers Point — a landmark Monterey County seaside destination — at 10:35 a.m.
Salinas resident Fernando Beltran told the Monterey Herald that he was taking a break from biking at Lovers Point Park when he saw a “tussling” in the water.
“I realized (it was a shark) when I saw the dorsal fin,” Beltran said. “I was in shock for a minute, thinking, ‘Oh that can’t be a shark.’ I thought it was two guys wrestling.”
Beltran said he saw the swimmer go underwater for around 10 to 15 seconds. When the swimmer resurfaced, he began calling for help. Beltran said he called 911, and a group of four or five paddleboarders rushed out to get the swimmer on a board and out of the water.
Beltran said the victim was conscious and bleeding from his left leg when he last saw him being transported to the hospital by emergency responders.
Two Salinas TV stations, KSBW and KION, reported Wednesday evening that friends of the swimmer identified him as Steve Bruemmer. A former IT specialist and computer science instructor at Monterey Peninsula College, Bruemmer, 62, a Monterey resident, retired last year. He is a member of a swimming club that regularly swims in the ocean near Lovers Point, although he was swimming alone Wednesday at the time of the attack, friends said.
Aimee Johns, a nurse from Folsom, and her husband Paul Bandy, an off-duty Sacramento police officer, were visiting Pacific Grove on their wedding anniversary, and paddle boarding in the area when they heard Bruemmer scream.
They rushed over and helped rescue him, they told KSBW. Johns said Bruemmer was bitten on his torso and limbs.
“We had to quickly cut his wetsuit off him,” Johns told KSBW, “and open it all up and try to apply tourniquets to each limb, and also to his abdomen — put the pressure there, because he was bleeding severely.”
Jill Hannley, a friend of Bruemmer’s, told KION that he suffered a broken femur, but did not have any major arteries severed, and is expected to recover.
“He’s not going to lose any limbs,” Hannley told the station. “He’s going to survive. But it’s going to be a long recovery.”
Wednesday afternoon Pacific Grove Police said the victim sustained “significant injuries” and was taken by ambulance to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. The Monterey Fire Department and Seaside Fire Department later used a drone to search for the shark, but by Wednesday afternoon there had been no additional sightings.
“They are actively looking for the shark, but we don’t have any information yet on what kind it was or how big it was,” said Shayla Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Grove Police Department.
Lovers Point is located 1 mile west of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The beaches from the Sea Palm Avenue Turnout to Lovers Point will be closed until Saturday, police said.
BREAKING: All beaches in Pacific Grove will be closed for at least 48 hours following a shark attack at Lovers Point this morning. pic.twitter.com/JcsxVVV3Sp
— Molly Gibbs (@MollyMGibbs) June 22, 2022
Shark attacks are rare off the California coastline. However, they do occasionally occur.
In May 2020, surfer Ben Kelly, 26, of Santa Cruz, was killed in a shark attack about 100 yards off Manresa State Beach in Aptos. Kelly bled to death after the shark bit him behind his right knee, striking an artery. An investigation by state wildlife biologists found the shark was at least 10 feet long.
A study published last year concluded that there is an increase of great white sharks in Monterey Bay.
Juvenile great white sharks — younger animals that are between 5 and 9 feet long — that traditionally concentrated in warm waters off northern Mexico and Southern California have moved north since 2014 as water temperatures have warmed, the study found.
The young sharks stay close to shore, feeding on squid and other animals. When they grow larger, they move to deeper, colder waters.
Where once there were no juvenile white sharks spotted in the ocean between Manresa State Beach in Aptos and New Brighton State Beach in Capitola, now there are dozens seen every year, according to research from scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Duke University and California State University Long Beach. The sharks swim there in groups between April and October, sometimes within a few yards of the shoreline and other features such as the “Cement Ship,” a dilapidated boat off a pier at Seacliff State Beach.
Sharks have been photographed regularly swimming near people, who often have no clue that the powerful creatures are so close by. In most cases, the sharks do not attack people, and when they do bite somebody, it’s almost never a sustained attack. It’s a one-time bite, and then they leave, experts say.
“A majority of these cases, a person is bitten and is able to swim back to the beach,” said Chris Lowe, a marine biologist with Cal State Long Beach. “If a shark was intent on feeding, the person would never make it back to the beach. We assume these are accidents: The shark just made a mistake. They might have mistaken a human for prey or just felt threatened because the human got too close and didn’t even know the shark was there.”
Lowe noted that millions of people visit California beaches every year, and attacks are highly infrequent.
The risk generally of being injured or killed by a great white shark off the California coast is tiny. A study published by Stanford scientists in 2015 found a 1-in-17 million risk of a surfer being attacked. The risk fell 91% from 1950 to 2013, the scientists found, because the number of attacks remained mostly constant, but the human population in coastal California tripled from 7 million in the 1950s to 21 million in 2013.
Lovers Point, located at the end of 17th Street in Pacific Grove, is one of the oldest tourist spots on Monterey Bay. It has been a popular area for swimming, boating and picnicking since the 1870s, when the Methodist Episcopal Church established a seaside resort there. The area became known as “Lovers of Jesus Point,” later shortened to “Lovers Point.”
Today, there is a 4-acre park with a beach, a large lawn area, a beach volleyball court, rocky outcroppings, a restaurant and a snack bar. The area is a popular site for weddings and also is home to the city’s annual Feast of Lanterns pageant and fireworks celebration.