The parents of Stella Berry, the Perth teenager killed in a shark attack on Saturday, have spoken of their heartache after losing their "vibrant and happy" daughter.
The 16-year-old student, who attended Shenton College, had been riding a jet ski at Fremantle when she jumped into the Swan River to swim with dolphins, and was killed by a suspected bull shark.
It's been over a century since the last fatal shark attack in the Swan River and the news has devastated family and friends. The Year 11 student was formally identified as the victim by her school on Saturday, and on Sunday parents Sophie and Matt Berry broke their silence and released photos of their daughter.
Parents of teen 'devastated and deeply shocked'
"We are devastated and deeply shocked by the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella," the statement reads. "Stella was a vibrant and happy girl with plans of living in Europe after school. She was a caring person and was a dear friend to many, across a variety of schools in the area."
The 16-year-old had an "infectious laugh" which made her parents laugh too, they said. The teenager "loved creating art and spending times with her friends", particularly at the river and beach.
"She was a beautiful and loving big sister and the best daughter we could have hoped for," the couple added.
Some of Stella's friends gathered at the river bank in North Fremantle on Sunday, the ABC reported. They too were shocked by the teen's sudden death. One friend, Teagan McArthur, said Stella's death "doesn't feel real".
"We were all in contact with her less than 24 hours ago and now she's not here with us," she said.
Another friend, Lara Connolly, said Stella was the "sweetest and smartest girl that I knew".
"She never did anything wrong to anybody," Lara said, "She was so kind. She loved art. I'd ride my bike to see her sometimes and I'd see her running. She wanted to run a marathon".
Experts believe the shark involved in the attack was likely a bull shark, but say while they are one of the most aggressive species, fatal attacks are rare.
WA Police Acting Fremantle District Inspector Paul Robinson told reporters a shark attack at this part of the river was "unusual".
Witnesses heard 'big scream'
Witnesses Luke Smith and Joshua Warwick told 9News they heard "this big scream". "Then we see a girl just jump off and we see a few fins," Smith said.
"We saw the police running down the hill, and we thought maybe they were chasing someone and then we saw a girl on the ground getting resuscitated," Warwick added.
The young men said they were in the water just ten minutes before the incident, with Smith admitting "it could've been any one of us". Another witness reportedly said one man brought Stella to shore on a jet ski. The teen sustained severe leg injuries and was confirmed dead at the scene just before 6pm.
In an email sent to parents at Shenton College, Principal Michael Morgan expressed his sympathy to the student's family. Mr Morgan was sharing the news of Ms Berry’s death with "great sadness, sincere empathy and the deepest regret" — and with the family’s permission. Students at the school are being offered support.
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