Area diver shark victim?

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Posted by on August 20, 2004 at 16:16:47:

In Reply to: Shark estimated at 16-18 feet; 'it was over in five seconds' posted by Chris on August 17, 2004 at 21:33:39:

Body recovered off Fort Bragg matches the description of an Auburn fishing activist, officials say.
By Ed Fletcher - Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, August 17, 2004
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Recreational fishermen up and down the state were in shock Monday after authorities announced they recovered a body not far from where a Sacramento-area man was believed to have been the victim of a shark attack.

Friends and authorities believe Randy Fry was attacked and killed by a great white shark while diving for abalone Sunday afternoon near Fort Bragg.

The Mendocino County sheriff's search and rescue team, with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, recovered a body matching the description of Fry about 10:45 a.m. Monday. It had with a "major bite" to the chest, officials said.

If confirmed, the fatal shark attack would be the first in Mendocino County and the 11th in California since the 1950s, according to the Department of Fish and Game. The most recent fatal shark attack was last August.

As of late Monday, authorities could not say whether the body recovered was Fry's, an influential member of the recreational fishing community, or whether the death was caused by a shark.

That didn't slow the grieving for him.

"Fishermen knew him, liked him and are devastated by this," said Jim Martin, a friend who worked with Fry through the Recreational Fishing Alliance. The alliance is a national political action group devoted to protecting the interests of recreational anglers, according to its Web site.

Fry, 50, worked as a contractor in the Sacramento area, but recently had converted his passion for fishing and diving into a job as full-time advocate. His official address was listed as Auburn, but friends said he spent most of his time on the road or at his girlfriend's in Elk Grove.

Fry was doing what he loved until the end, friends said. He spent Saturday with spearfishing friends and serving as "weigh master" for a tournament put on by Central California Council of Dive Clubs. Saturday night he helped raise money for the Recreational Fishing Alliance at its annual fish fry, using the fish donated from the tournament.

Martin had lunch with Fry on Sunday before Fry and two other friends and Recreational Fishing Alliance board members set out.

As Fry and his dive partner dived for abalone, a third man, who was asked to keep an eye out for sharks, fished from the boat, Martin said.

According to authorities, Fry's dive partner reported seeing a "big fish" come between them while Fry was underwater. The dive partner attempted to alert Fry, then dropped his weight belt and swam to safety, Martin said.

Back at the boat, about 150 feet from where they were diving, the partner radioed for help and went back to look for Fry.

It appears that death came quickly, said Lt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department.

Martin said the divers were extra cautious because of the high number of seals and sea lions in the area.

"They were aware of the risk. This is not a situation where guys didn't know what they were doing," Martin said.

While noteworthy, shark attacks are rare.

"The occurrences of encounters are pretty small," said Carrie Wilson, a DFG marine biologist.

She said swimmers and divers can play it safe by avoiding area with seals and sea lions, which are food for sharks.

News spread quickly in the Fort Bragg area and over the Internet.

"I don't think recreational fishermen know what they lost," said Martin. "We lost a great warrior for our rights."

Fry recently helped win an exemption to a near-shore fishery ban for divers and people fishing from the shore, said Bob Humphrey, marine resources director for the Central California Council of Dive Clubs.

The ban was meant to protect rockfish, but Fry successfully argued that neither spearfishers nor families fishing from the shore affected rockfish, Humphrey said.

Martin and Humphrey said Fry spent nearly all of his time traveling the state to cajole, advocate and fight for the rights of people who fish for fun.

Martin said Fry worked tirelessly.

"Whenever I got down, I would call him and he would tell me to cowboy up," Martin said. "I'm having a hard time cowboying up right now."

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