California shark attack victim punched shark in face before being rescued

A two-mile stretch of beach in California was closed on Sunday (June 2) after a 46-year-old man was attacked by a shark. Authorities said the man was swimming off the coast of San Diego at Del Mar Beach when a shark began biting him.

One of the man’s friends, Jenna Bealtold NBC's TODAY that he hit the shark in the face, whereupon other swimmers were able to pull him to shore.

“He punched him in the face, he punched him in the nose,” she said. “I know he had a cut on his hand from a shark's tooth.”

Back at the beach, lifeguards cared for the man until an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital. The man suffered bites on his left hand, left arm and upper body, but was expected to survive.

Head of the Shark Laboratory at California State University Long Beach Chris Lowe told CNN that researchers were called to the beach to collect water samples and DNA samples from the man's wetsuit to identify the species of shark responsible for the rare attack. Lowe said he believes the shark was likely a juvenile great white.

“Sharks are known to avoid humans, but every now and then they make mistakes,” Lowe said. “It's possible that the shark involved in this incident was literally just passing through and had no chance of encountering humans.”