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New Zealand beaches closed as shark victim honoured

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Lifeguards were on the lookout Thursday for a shark that killed a man off a crowded beach near New Zealand's largest city as his family held a Maori ceremony near the site where he was mauled.

Relatives named the man who died in the rare attack on Wednesday at Muriwai Beach west of Auckland as Adam Strange, a 46-year-old film maker and keen ocean swimmer.

He was swimming about 100 metres offshore when a shark described as four metres (13 feet) long attacked at 1:30 pm (1230 GMT) Wednesday in the first confirmed shark fatality in New Zealand for more than 35 years.

The shark was still biting Strange's corpse when police pulled alongside it in an inflatable rescue boat and shot at the predator to distract it while they pulled the body aboard.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand regional manager Tom Burgess said it was not clear whether the shark, believed to be a great white, survived the shooting and lifeguards were being extra vigilant in the area on Thursday.

"We've received no additional information of sightings... we're currently ensuring that the beach is closed, that people are advised of the incident that's occurred and to keep their eyes peeled," he told Radio New Zealand.

He said the shark was likely to have moved on even if it had survived but authorities were taking no chances amid eyewitness reports that up to three more of the creatures circled Strange's body after the initial attack.

Muriwai and nearby beaches remained shut to swimmers on Thursday but Strange's family and friends gathered on the shore for a Maori mourning ceremony, with some wading in ankle-deep and embracing one another.

"The family are grieving the loss of a glorious and great father, husband and friend," the family said in a statement released late Wednesday, adding that they were in "deep shock" and wanted their privacy respected.

Strange's personal website says he directed television commercials, mainly in Asia, and created a short film "Aphrodite's Farm" which won an award at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival.

New Zealand's previous confirmed shark death was in 1976, according to the Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. A death in 2009 is often attributed to sharks, but investigators were unsure if the victim drowned before being attacked.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130227/new-zealand-beaches-closed-shark-victim-honoured