Elio Canestri was attacked at around 9am on Sunday while surfing with seven other people in an off-limits section of the water off the west coast of the island. It is believed that the shark struck him from below around 50ft from the shore, knocking the youngster off his board before biting into his stomach.
The incident is the seventh fatal shark attack off Reunion – which lies to the east of Madagascar – in the past four years. The last victim was a 20-year-old woman who died in hospital from cardiac arrest in February after being bitten while swimming.
Nine other non-fatal attacks have taken place over the same four-year period, the victims including a 23-year-old man who lost his right leg while swimming last October.
Hundreds of people visited the beach following Elio’s death to pay silent tribute to the up-and-coming young surfer.
The Mirror quoted a rescue services spokesman as saying: “A boat was launched very quickly, and the victim was dragged out of the sea, but he died from his wounds. Those who witnessed the attack, including other children, are being treated for trauma.”
Authorities immediately put in place a “post-attack procedure” to catch the shark. A tiger shark measuring more than 11ft in length was captured and killed within a few hours – but medical examination of the boy’s remains indicated that the wrong fish had been killed.
Local police chief Dominique Sorain warned swimmers and surfers from straying outside the island’s controversial protected zone. “More than ever we have to be doubly vigilant, and the best way to prevent accidents is to respect the ban,” he said, according to the Seychelles News Agency.