A 13-year-old surfing champion died in a shark attack off the coast of the Indian ocean island of Reunion, officials said Monday.
Elio Canestri was surfing with seven others off the west coast of the island on Sunday morning when a shark attacked, a spokesman for the island's rescue services agency told NBC News. The shark sunk its teeth into the teen's stomach and flung him around the water as he prepared to mount a wave, the spokesman added.
"A boat was launched very quickly, and the victim was dragged out of the sea, but he died from his wounds," the spokesman said, declining to give his name due to company policy. "Those who witnessed the attack, including other children, are being treated for trauma."
Hundreds of people paid tribute to the young surfing star, with professional surfer Jeremy Flores — who grew up on the island — calling the teen "one of our best up and coming surfers" in an Instagram post. Others mourning the younger on the beach of Reunion, a French territory off the coast of Madagascar.
The attack was one of several to hit Reunion. There have been 16 shark attacks, seven of them fatal, in the island's waters over the past four years. After a non-fatal shark attack in February, authorities banned all water activities outside select areas watched by lifeguards.