'She was bleeding out': Disturbing details emerge after gruesome Whitsundays shark attack

A dream holiday to the idyllic Whitsunday Islands has ended in horror for a Tasmanian tourist, who is now fighting for life in hospital after a shark attack.

Justine Barwick, 46, suffered a major injury to her upper left thigh in the attack and was bleeding profusely from the wound when she was pulled from the water at Cid Harbour about 5pm on Wednesday.

Fortunately for Ms Barwick, a rescue helicopter had been conducting a beacon search at nearby Proserpine when the call was sent out, enabling them to scramble to the attack scene within 15 minutes.

“The shark had taken a huge chunk out of her inside leg and she was bleeding out,” RACQ CQ Rescue crewman Ben McCauley told the ABC.

The 46-year-old is now fighting for life in a Queensland hospital. Image: 7 News

The helicopter then stopped at Proserpine to refuel, allowing blood from a local hospital to be transfused and other medical treatment given.

Just after 8pm Ms Barwick arrived at Mackay Base Hospital where she remains in a critical condition on Thursday morning after overnight surgery.

Heroic doctor jumps into action

The woman was swimming next to a yacht off the Whitsunday Islands when she was attacked. Image: Getty

Dr John Hadok, an emergency department doctor from Mackay Base Hospital, happened to be sailing nearby when he spotted the hovering helicopter and headed over to provide assistance.

RACQ CQ Rescue Helicopter crewman Ben McCauley said the doctor and others who gave first aid to Ms Barwick before she was winched aboard had likely saved her life.

“The original first aid was actually really well done,” Mr McCauley told reporters on Thursday.

“We actually didn’t have to do anything with the leg, it was pretty much tourniqueted up, bandaged up and bleeding had stopped. They’d done a really good job.”

A hospital spokeswoman confirmed the woman remains in a critical condition on Thursday morning.