Elio Canestri was surfing with seven others off the west coast of the island on Sunday morning when a shark attacked, a spokesman for the island’s rescue services agency said.
The shark sunk its teeth into the teen’s stomach and flung him around the water as he prepared to mount a wave, the spokesman added.
“A boat was launched very quickly, and the victim was dragged out of the sea, but he died from his wounds,” the spokesman said, declining to give his name due to company policy. “Those who witnessed the attack, including other children, are being treated for trauma.”
Witnesses described the Elio being flung around the water as the shark bit into his stomach, just after 9am.
The shark tore off the child’s arms, legs and part of his stomach, before dragging him out to sea, reports the Mirror.
Awitness told local radio: “It is horrific. The boy was always smiling and happy – everybody knew him. A gendarme helicopter appeared very quickly, and we were all told to evacuate the beach.”
NBC news reports that a crowd of people paid tribute to the young surfing star. Others mourning the younger on the beach of Reunion, a French territory off the coast of Madagascar. Professional surfer Jeremy Flores, who grew up on the island, led the tributes to the teenager.
The attack took place at Cap Homard, or Lobster Cape, an area on the west coast of the island.
There have been 16 shark attacks, seven of them fatal, in the island’s waters over the past four years.
Reunion is a French territory, part of the European Union, and is situated in the Indian Ocean close to Madagascar.