Surfer tried to warn friends of 4.5m shark before fatal attack

·5-min read

The man in his 50s who was fatally attacked by a shark on Tuesday had tried to warn others they weren't alone in the water at Tuncurry Beach.

At around 11.20am emergency services were called to the beach after the surfer was fatally mauled by a 4.5-metre great white shark on the NSW mid-north coast.

Police say the man spotted the shark before it latched on, leaving him with horrific injuries to his upper thigh.

Beachgoers and police surround a shark attack victim on Tuncurry beach.
The surfer had tried to warn others of the shark before the fatal attack, police said. Source: 7News

"When the attack occurred the man did actually see the shark and called out to try and warn others," Superintendent Christopher Schilt told reporters.

"Very heroically his friends were able to bring him back into shore after he had been attacked."

It's the first confirmed fatal shark attack in Australian waters this year, though it's believed another man was killed by a shark off South Australia in January.

'Only a matter of time' before fatal great white attack

A photographer who has been documenting sharking sightings on the Mid North Coast says it was just a matter time before someone was attacked.

A man was fatally attacked by a shark at Tuncurry Beach on Tuesday. Source: 9 News
A man was fatally attacked by a shark at Tuncurry Beach on Tuesday. Source: 9 News

Adam Fitzroy, from MidCoast Aerial Photography, regularly takes drone footage of Tuncurry and nearby beaches. After the attack he posted on Facebook his condolences to the man's family along with recent drone footage showing a shark at the surf break.

"It was only a matter of time wasn’t it, Brucey," the MidCoast Aerial Photography post read, making reference to the nickname for great whites stemming from the movie Jaws. 

Mr Fitzroy told Yahoo News Australia he flies drones overhead these beaches regularly because he knows how frequently "the whites dwell in this area".

He said the great whites come back around every year to feast on mullet.

"This shark is always here" he said, adding with mullet either being gone already or running behind schedule, the shark may have targeted "the next best thing".

Great white shark, Southern Australia, Australia.
A local photographer says great whites frequent Tuncurry Beach, where a surfer was fatally attacked by a shark on Tuesday. Source: Getty Images

Shark scientists from the NSW Department of Primary Industry have since analysed photos of the bite and determined a white shark about 4.5m long is likely responsible for the attack.

On Monday, a tagged white shark was detected off Main Beach in Forster, NSW Shark Smart reported.

At 2pm on Tuesday a white shark was again detected at the same beach.

In June 2019 The Rogue Droner, operated by Mr Fitzroy, shared footage of a shark getting dangerously close to surfers at Tuncurry beach.

Later that month the drone captured footage of a shark stalking children swimming at the same beach.

A 2019 still from a video shared by The Rogue Droner shows a great white shark approaching surfers at Tuncurry Beach. Source: YouTube/ The Rogue Droner
A 2019 still from a video shared by The Rogue Droner shows a great white shark approaching surfers at Tuncurry Beach. Source: YouTube/ The Rogue Droner

Shark attack on Tuncurry beach "unprecedented"

Speaking to ABC News following the shark attack at Tuncurry Beach on Tuesday, Brian Wilcox of Forster Surf Lifesaving Club said the attack was "pretty unprecedented".

"I can't recall ever having a shark attack in this area," Mr Wilcox said.

He said a drone was circling the area looking for sharks, and drone missions will be ongoing for the next few days,

He said a couple of sharks had been spotted, but it is not known if any of them are responsible for the fatal attack.

Tuncurry Beach and Forster Main Beach remain closed and Mr Wilcox said beaches will be closed for at least 24 hours.

There were eight fatal shark attacks in Australian waters last year, according to the Taronga Conservation Society which records shark fatalities.

How to be "shark smart"

Though the risk of a shark attack is small, entering the water is still a risk.

There are several ways people can minimise the risk of being attacked by a shark while in the water.

Shark Smart NSW says the easiest way to way to keep yourself safe is to only swim and surf at patrolled beaches, and do so between the flags.

Shark Smart also lists several other things swimmers and surfers can do be 'Shark Smart':

  • Tell an on-duty lifesaver or lifeguard if you see a shark.

  • Stay close to shore when swimming.

  • Stay out of the water with bleeding cuts or wounds.

  • It's best to swim, dive or surf with other people.

  • Avoid swimming and surfing at dawn, dusk and night – sharks can see you but you can’t see them.

  • Keep away from murky, dirty water, and waters with known effluents or sewage.

  • Avoid areas used by recreational or commercial fishers.

  • Avoid areas with signs of bait fish or fish feeding activity; diving seabirds are a good indicator of fish activity.

  • Dolphins do not indicate the absence of sharks; both often feed together on the same food, and sharks are known to eat dolphins.

  • Be aware that sharks may be present between sandbars or near steep drop offs.

  • Steer clear of swimming in canals and swimming or surfing in river/harbour mouths.

  • Avoid having pets in the water with you.

  • Keep away from shark nets and other shark mitigation measures.

  • Consider using a personal deterrent.

"People cannot always control the natural environment but they can control their own behaviour," the Taronga Conservation Society says on a page dedicated to preventing shark attacks.

"In terms of minimising shark bites to humans, culling sharks indiscriminately because they occasionally bite people is not the answer."

With AAP

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