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Video: Shark victim’s children speak out

TODAY contributor
updated 4/28/2008 9:53:15 AM ET 2008-04-28T13:53:15

The great sadness that the children of Dave Martin feel at the death of their father during a shark attack while swimming is tempered by the knowledge that he died among friends in a place that he loved.

“Every one of us is going to face our mortality one day,” Jeff Martin told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira on Monday, three days after his father was fatally bitten during a training swim with eight fellow members of the Triathlon Club of San Diego. “The fact he died doing what he loved to do in a place he loved surrounded by friends — if you could choose the way you’re going to go, those things would be high on your list.”

Marine biologists theorize that Martin was hit by an adult great white shark that would have been 12 to 17 feet long. The retired 66-year-old veterinarian was wearing a black wet suit, and experts believe the shark could have mistaken him for a seal.

Martin was thrown out of the water by the force of the attack, which left a single gash across both thighs. He screamed for help, and fellow club members brought him to the shore, where paramedics and lifeguards were unable to save him from bleeding to death.

“I’m thankful that it wasn’t a long, drawn-out process,” said Kevin, 41, the eldest of Martin’s four children. “We’re sad that he was taken away from us so quickly. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. We weren’t ready for him to go. But I’m glad that it was quick and relatively painless.”

Like his father, Kevin Martin loves the waters at Fletcher’s Cove north of San Diego, just a block from the family home. A surfer, Kevin ignored an advisory that swimmers stay out of the waters along a 17-mile section of San Diego shore for three days after the attack. On Saturday, he went surfing in the same waters in which his father had died one day earlier.

“Surfers can tell you — getting in the water — there’s something that’s just relaxing, something that kind of soothes you,” he told Vieira. “It’s where we like to be and doing what we like to do, and in a way it was a way for me to say, ‘I love you, Dad. I miss you.’ I kind of felt I could be with him.”

Hannah Martin is the youngest of the family and spent many days growing up swimming at Fletcher’s Cove.

“I’ve been swimming here ever since I can remember,” she said. “We never, ever in a million years thought something like this would happen.”

Image: Dave Martin
Martin family via AP
Dave Martin died Friday April 25, 2008, after being bitten by a shark off Solana Beach, Calif., near San Diego.

“I guarantee the last thing in his mind — in anyone’s mind — was something like that happening,” added her brother, Kevin, 26. “It caught us completely off guard.”

The three siblings — the fourth of Dave Martin’s children, Ben, 21, did not join the interview — said that their father had joked about sharks from time to time, as most swimmers do, but was more concerned about the cold water temperatures than about shark attacks. His death was the first attributed to a shark in San Diego waters since 1994 and the second in 40 years. Worldwide, there were 71 reported shark attacks in all of last year, most of them nonfatal.

Dave Martin had come to the area in 1970 to work in a veterinary clinic and was a well-liked and respected community leader. He took up triathlons four or five years ago and went for a one-mile training swim with fellow club members every Friday. Jeff had also taken up the sport to spend more time with his dad. The two had planned to take part in the annual “Escape from Alcatraz” swim in San Francisco later this year.

Dave Martin also had a stepson and four grandchildren.

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“We really appreciate as a family the positive light the media is putting on him,” Kevin Martin told Vieira. “We want him to be remembered as the great, loving family man that he was, and we all love him very much and we miss him very much.”

“He was an amazing person,” added Hannah Martin. “He was the rock of our family. He taught me so many lessons. I’m just glad that I got to spend 18 years looking up to him.”

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