A heartbroken uncle has paid tribute to his surfer nephew who was killed by a great white shark on Christmas Eve – and the woman who brought his body back to shore.
Tomas Butterfield, 42, had been visiting his mum in California when he was attacked by the beast off the coast of Morro Strand State beach.
On the morning of December 24, Butterfield went to the beach alone but by around 10.40am, a woman found his bodyboard "bobbing in the water" near a surfing spot nicknamed The Pit.
When she paddled toward it she saw a leash tied to the board and "tugged on it" only to find his body.
The hero swimmer, who Tomas's relatives now describe as 'part of the family' then grabbed Butterfield by his swim fins and swam his body back to the shore where around 30 people had gathered.
Paying tribute to the surfer, his uncle Grant, told the Los Angeles Times: “It’s a terrible loss, at 42, with him getting his stuff together and starting to make something of himself.
"[The family is] going to do OK … but even at that, it’s a tough time holding it together."
He went on to praise the woman who saved his nephew's body from the waves, telling the LA Times that she " doesn't know it, but she's obviously part of the family now.
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"The possibility that his board might have gone farther out to sea and that he would have been missing forever."
It is unclear whether anyone saw the shark attack but the LA Times claims the incident remains under investigation.
Authorities closed the waters near Morro Strand for 24 hours after his body was found and issued warnings "enter the water at your own risk".
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