A champion South African bodyboarder was killed by a 13-foot-long great white shark off the coast of South Africa.
According to the Cape Times, the attack occurred Thursday afternoon off of Gordons Bay, a popular surfing destination located about 55 miles east of Cape Town.
David Lilienfeld, 20, was killed after the shark severed his right leg below the hip. Lilienfeld’s younger brother, Gustav, had attempted to fend off the shark with his board.
The shark lunged at David Lilienfeld twice before returning for the fatal attack. Gustav, who was not injured, rushed his brother back to shore on his board, but David had lost too much blood by the time rescuers reached him.
"This was his life, and he died doing what he loved," his father, Dirk, said at the scene.
One witness insisted the tragedy was not simply a random act, but a consequence of chumming done in the area for the filming of the documentary "Shark Men," which appears on the National Geographic Channel.
The city of Cape Town has ruled out a link between David Lilienfeld’s death on Thursday and the use of bait and watery fish gunk, known as chum, to attract sharks for research that was being filmed in the area, AFP reported.
Following Lilienfeld’s death, Cape Town environmental officials pulled the film crew’s research permit, but the crew has since been cleared.
"There is no evidence or any logical reasoning to link the two, but the national government department that was responsible for that program felt an immense amount of pressure, and as result of that pressure they felt it was just better not to continue with the tagging of the white sharks," Gregg Oelofse, head of Cape Town’s environmental policy unit told Bloomberg.
"There is no evidence or reason to suggest that the tagging of four White Sharks … had any role to play in the tragic events," a city statement said. "Public and media speculation linking the two unrelated activities is uninformed and misleading."
Cape Town’s coastline is a natural habitat for sharks, the city said, adding, "An unfortunate, tragic and regrettable result of this will be that, on occasion, shark attacks will occur."
"Shark Men" features anglers and scientists capturing and tagging sharks, but the show has not yet been renewed for another season by the network, which maintained it was not involved in the filming.
Chumming is also done in the area by cage-diving operators who offer shark-watching trips for tourists. According to Bloomberg, cage-diving operators said shark activity in the area was normal at the time of the attack.
Lilienfeld competed on the South African team at the International Surfing Association Bodyboarding Championships last year in the Canary Islands.