WELLINGTON (AP) - About 150 friends and family of Adam Strange wrote messages to him in the sand and stepped into the water on Thursday at a New Zealand beach to say goodbye a day after he was killed by a large shark while training for an endurance swim.
Strange, 46, was an award-winning television and short film director and the father of a 2-year-old girl. He was swimming near popular Muriwai Beach on Wednesday when he was attacked by the shark that was possibly 4 meters long.
Police attempting to save him raced out in inflatable boats and fired gunshots at the enormous predator, which they say rolled away and disappeared. They couldn't confirm if they'd killed it. Police were able to recover Strange's body.
Muriwai and several nearby beaches remained closed for swimming after the fatal attack, one of only about a dozen in New Zealand in the past 180 years.
Friend Adam Stevens said the Thursday beach service was run by indigenous Maori who removed the "tapu" or spiritual restriction at the beach. He said it was a "perfect tribute" to a man who spent much of his time swimming and surfing.
"He was a very robust, big, barrel-chested surfer," Stevens said.
"He was basically completely obsessed with the ocean, with paddle boards and body surfing, everything. His garage was like a museum of surf craft."
According to Police Inspector Shawn Rutene, Strange was about 200 meters from the shore when he was attacked by a shark that police estimated was up to four meters long.
Stevens said his friend was planning to swim about 1.6 kilometer Wednesday as he tested new goggles and trained for an annual endurance swim from Auckland to Rangitoto Island. The 4.5 kilometer swim takes place on Sunday.
"I surfed with him the day before," Stevens said.
"He wasn't that pleased with his fitness level but was just getting into the right headspace and finding the motivation to get out there."
Pio Mose, who was fishing at the beach Wednesday, told the New Zealand Herald newspaper he saw Strange struggle against the huge shark. Mose yelled at Strange to swim to the rocks, but it was too late.
"All of a sudden there was blood everywhere," Mose said. "I was shaking, scared, panicked."
About 200 people had been enjoying the beach during the Southern Hemisphere summer at the time of the attack.