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Colleagues share memories of DVM killed in shark attack
Solana Beach, Calif. - Classmates and friends of retired DVM David Martin, killed recently in a shark attack not far from his Solana Beach home, remember him as modest, soft-spoken and confident, one describing him as "the essence of a successful Southern California veterinarian."
Solana Beach, Calif. — Classmates and friends of retired DVM David Martin, killed recently in a shark attack not far from his Solana Beach home, remember him as modest, soft-spoken and confident, one describing him as "the essence of a successful Southern California veterinarian."
"I nearly jumped from my chair, shocked when I heard the first news reports that it was a retired vet. I put two and two together and knew it had to be him," Dr. Joseph Zinkl, professor emeritus at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and one of Martin's former classmates, tells DVM Newsmagazine.
"I knew he lived in that area and was a swimmer," Zinkl says. "It wasn't long before several of us (classmates) were calling and e-mailing each other expressing shock and sadness at what happened and sharing our memories.
"He and I did a lot of backpacking in the Sierras in the early '60s as students. I was in rotation with him in class. He was modest, yet confident in his abilities. I remember he loved athletic competition and loved the water. He was always fit and active; I recall he was a goalie on the UCD water polo team at one point. He stayed in touch; we'd see each other regularly at reunions and meetings. The last time, I think, was at our 2006 class reunion."
An autopsy showed it was a great white shark that killed the 66-year-old retired veterinarian while he was swimming in the ocean near his home the morning of April 25.
The official cause of death was exsanguination, or blood loss, from a shark bite, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office. A shark expert who assisted with the autopsy said two serrated-tooth fragments found in the body indicate the shark was a great white, perhaps up to 17 feet long.
Martin was bitten while swimming with eight other members of the Triathlon Club of San Diego in about 20 to 30 feet of water about 150 yards off Solana Beach, 14 miles northwest of San Diego.
Practicing for an upcoming triathlon, the swimmers were in the water about 7 a.m. when the shark struck from below, pushing Martin out of the water and then pulling him back under briefly.
Witnesses say they heard screams, and that Martin yelled "Shark!" apparently to warn the others, who then pulled him to shore, where efforts to save him failed. A county lifeguard said Martin suffered a massive bite across both upper thighs and extending to the lower shins.
'The essence of a successful Southern California veterinarian'
"David was quiet, soft-spoken, well-liked and respected by everyone who knew him. There have been many quotes to that effect all over the media since it happened, and they're all right on the mark," veterinarian Gary Rose, who owns Cabrillo Pet Hospital in nearby Point Loma, tells DVM Newsmagazine.
"He was what you might call the essence of a successful Southern California veterinarian — tall, blond, a rugged outdoorsman," says Rose, who knew Martin for about 30 years. "He did relief work for me for about the last eight years, but it was getting harder and harder to get him in here, he was so busy enjoying his retirement. Besides being a triathlete, he was a pilot and skier and we went deer-hunting together. I'm 58 and he was 66. I have to say I envied his lifestyle," Rose says.
Although he hadn't seen Martin in several years, another area veterinarian, Dr. Lou Serrano, owner of Solana Hills Pet Medical Center, says he formerly worked with Martin in San Diego and remembered him the same way — "a quiet but outgoing, friendly gentleman, always active and vital. I swim and surf myself, so it's quite unsettling to hear about an attack like this. It's an extremely rare thing, so I won't stay away from the water. But it's something you don't like to think about when you're out there."
Martin, described by fellow triathlon club members as more than 6 feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds, was taking his first ocean swim this year on the morning of the attack. He typically won events in his age group, they said.
Martin began small-animal veterinary practice in California in 1966 and had lived in Solana Beach since 1970. In the mid 1980s, he and another DVM, Michael Mulvany, opened All Creatures Animal Hospital near Del Mar. Martin sold his interest to Mulvany and retired in 1997, although he continued to do relief work for several area hospitals. Mulvany declined to comment.
Martin is survived by four children — Kevin, Jeff, Ben and Hannah — a stepson and four grandchildren.
Great white sharks, experts say, usually look for seals and sea lions for food and don't attack humans unless possibly mistaking someone wearing a wetsuit for a seal. Martin and his group were wearing wetsuits during their four-mile practice swim.
Although some shark bites are reported occasionally along California shores, none had been fatal since August of 2004, when a diver was killed in Mendocino County. There had been no fatal shark attacks in San Diego area waters since 1994.