Elio Canestri, a 13-year-old surfing champion, died from a shark attack on Sunday off the coast of the Island of Reunion.

Elio Canestri Killed By Shark

Canestri was surfing with seven friends off the small Island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean when the shark attack occurred. According to officials, the shark took hold of Canestri’s stomach and flung him into the water right as Canestri was about to take a wave. First responders were notified and they were able to bring Canestri back to shore via boat, but the young surfer died soon after.

“A boat was launched very quickly, and the victim was dragged out of the sea, but he died from his wounds,” said a spokesperson for the Island’s rescue service agency.

None of the other surfers were injured in the attack, but the spokesperson confirmed that they “are being treated for trauma.”

This is the 16th shark attack to take place off the coast of Reunion in the past four years – seven people have died. Due to the frequency of shark attacks, the island has been vigilant about instituting spotters on beaches before any water activity takes place, so that surfers and swimmers can be alerted to any possible danger.

Canestri was reportedly known to be cautious when entering the waters, especially areas that are off-limits to swimmers such as the one in which he was attacked. Canestri’s family revealed that he had left his mother a note that morning that read, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m going surfing. If there’s no security, I won’t surf.”

“Titi [Canestri] was devoured by his passion. Fate decided one day to take him away and he is gone,” Canestri’s father, Giovanni Canestri, told reporters.

The President of the French Surfing Federation Jean Luc Arassus released a statement, emphasizing that Canestri shouldn’t be blamed for his decision to surf in potentially dangerous waters: “Despite the ban in place and the instructions of his coach, how could one forbid a young boy of 13 from pursuing his passion when one lives on an island surrounded by the ocean and these magnificent waves?”

Meanwhile, hundreds of island residents, both surfers and non-surfers, gathered on the beach to honor Canestri. Professional surfer and Island of Reunion native, Jeremy Flores, mourned Canestri with a post on Instagram, calling him “one of our best up and coming [surfers].”

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