The first victim of the recent Whitsundays shark attacks has spoken her first words after regaining consciousness, apologising for the incident.
Justine Barwick, 46, from Tasmania, was visiting Queensland when she was mauled by a shark on Wednesday while swimming from a chartered yacht off the coast of Whitsunday Island at Cid Harbour.
She was pulled from the water and was said to be bleeding profusely from a gaping wound to her leg.
“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 as she was rushed to hospital fighting for life.
Yet less than a week after nearly losing her life, Ms Barwick has gained consciousness and has since chatted with her husband Craig.
“In typical Justine fashion her first words to me were, ‘sorry I have caused so much trouble’, and she is asking after the welfare of family and friends,” Mr Barwick said.
Ms Barwick is in a stable condition in ICU at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital after undergoing reconstructive surgery on her right leg.
While the family has been overwhelmed with the support following the attack, a statement from Ms Barwick’s employers, Family Based Care Tasmania, said financial aid isn’t necessary.
“While we are very grateful for these offers, there are others within the community who genuinely need the assistance,” Mr Barwick said.
The second victim, Hannah Peps, 12, remains in a critical but stable condition at Queensland Children’s Hospital following an attack within 24 hours of Ms Barwick’s.
Government defends shark killing
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has defended killing six sharks in response to the two attacks as necessary in part to fend off criticism of doing nothing.
Five tiger sharks and a small black tip shark have been killed in Cid Harbour by Fisheries Queensland since Ms Barwick and Hannah received life-threatening bites.
“Can you imagine the public outcry if anything else happened up there in that particular region during school holidays if the Department of Fisheries took no action?” Ms Palaszczuk said in response to questions about public outcry over the shark kills on Monday.
She said she is comfortable with the action taken, which the opposition Liberal National Party also agrees was the right move.
A spokeswoman for Ms Palaszczuk told AAP that contrary to media reports, the government was not considering an alert system, but people are being warned against swimming at Cid Harbour.
Fisheries Minister Mark Furner insists shark nets and baited hooks first installed at Queensland beaches in 1962 have “undoubtedly” saved lives.
He did not directly address questions about why they were killing sharks in Cid Harbour despite admitting they will never know if they caused the injuries.
“We’re not culling sharks, we’re protecting the public,” he said.
Humane Society International and Sea Shepherd Australia say baiting and killing sharks gives people a false sense of security.
“Baited drum lines targeting sharks in the area will do nothing to prevent further accidents,” Sea Shepherd’s Jonathan Clark said on Sunday.
“Stop the nonsense about speaking of ‘effectiveness’ only in terms of their ability to kill sharks.
“That bit is easy and it’s lazy policy. Making beaches actually safer is much harder and unrelated to their ability to kill sharks.”