New footage shows the chaos on a private wharf in an affluent Sydney suburb just moments after a woman was mauled by a shark metres from her home.
Lauren O’Neill was swimming near a private wharf in Elizabeth Bay on Monday evening when she was severely attacked on the leg by a shark.
Footage supplied to NCA NewsWire shows a number of locals helping Ms O’Neill and remaining by her side before paramedics get to her.
Another video shows a helicopter in the area, while paramedics work to treat the 29-year-old on the wharf.
Neighbour Nick Thompson saw the aftermath of the shark attack while in the middle of cleaning out his apartment, and saw multiple paramedics assisting Ms O’Neill.
“I came outside straight after [it happened],” he said.
“We were wondering what was going on. All of a sudden, we just saw cops flying down. I actually thought it was like a drug raid.”
Mr Thompson said he saw about fifteen police officers at the scene, and they tried to stop an unaware resident from swimming in the water.
“At one point, someone else tried to swim further down the marina,” he said.
“All the coppers were saying ‘shark, shark! Get out of the water’.”
Other locals described regularly seeing swimmers in the area during mornings, and kids and dogs being around the shore during evenings.
Sea life is present in the bay, with residents previously having sighted stingrays, jellyfish and dolphins.
Neighbour Michael Porter was one of the first people on the scene and heard Ms O’Neill’s “soft yell” before rushing to help.
Describing the scene to NCA NewsWire, he said there “was blood everywhere”.
“I saw Lauren climbing out of the Harbour on the ladder and she was sort of pulling herself up quite weakly, she didn’t have much strength and there was a whole pool of red blood in the Harbour,” Mr Porter said.
“Her leg was limp.”
It’s understood the 29-year-old had been swimming around boats close to the shore when she was attacked.
Mr Porter stayed with Ms O’Neill as he called triple-0, and other neighbours came to her side with towels.
He said a neighbour, who also happens to be a vet, had bought new tourniquets and bandages that day and rushed to help.
“They were wrapping and piecing her leg back together … it was an absolutely horrific injury,” Mr Porter said.
‘Calm and relaxed’
Neighbours held Ms O’Neill’s hand and talked to her while waiting for the ambulance, with Mr Porter explaining she was “very lucid” during the waiting process.
He said she was “so brave” while waiting for the ambulance.
“It was strange … she was so calm and relaxed and just so brave,” Mr Porter said.
Mr Porter said Ms O’Neill had been known for swimming in Elizabeth Bay outside the shark nets.
The 29-year-old was pulled from the water and covered in blood where she was treated by locals before she was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital.
Friends and neighbours described Ms O’Neill as an eager kayaker who had recently bought a unit in the area.
Mr Porter is still processing what happened, explaining it was “so surreal”.
“I’m just trying to take it easy, I’ve had a taste of metal in my mouth … we were so lucky Fiona the vet was there and saved her life,” he said.
“You just don’t expect it to happen, I literally never thought I would be involved.”
A large police and ambulance presence rushed to Billyard Ave in Elizabeth Bay following reports a woman had been pulled out of the water after she was mauled on her right leg.
Shark expert and marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck told NCA NewsWire the shark was likely to have been a bull shark.
He also said swimming at night was “not a great idea”.
“When you swim at dawn or dusk or at night, a shark relies on its sense of taste to determine what’s in the environment around him, so we would describe this as an exploratory bite – this shark is just trying to figure out what’s around,” Mr Chlebeck said.
Mr Chlebeck is urging locals to avoid swimming in the area, especially at night.
He said the best way to reduce the risk of shark attacks was to better educate swimmers.
“We need to make it that education is more readily available, that swimming at night in the Harbour is just not a great idea,” Mr Chlebeck said.
Mr Chlebeck explained that abattoirs used to pour remains into the Harbour decades ago and sharks learnt the harbour was a great place to feed, which led to an influx in the area.
Bull sharks were used to hunting and feeding in estuaries such as Sydney Harbour, Mr Chlebeck said.
“It’s an area of high shark activity,” he said.
“During the day, in full sun, is when sharks are a little less active. Their sensors are heightened in the evening and early mornings. Those are the times I would avoid swimming in the Harbour.”
Shark expert and associate professor of environmental science at Bond University Daryl McPhee said Ms O’Neill would have received a “life-changing” injury.
“I commend the action of the first responder who, in quickly applying a tourniquet, may well have saved a life,” Dr McPhee said.
“The species of shark that most likely bit the victim is a bull shark. The NSW Department of Primary Industries will likely confirm this in due course.”
Dr McPhee said bull sharks were one of the three largest species mostly responsible for serious bites and fatalities along with the white shark and tiger shark.
“Bull sharks are found seasonally in Sydney Harbour during the warmer months of the year,” Dr McPhee said.
“They are generally found in water less than 5m deep near sharp drop-offs.
“While the risk of a shark bite is extremely low, I advise people to stay out of Sydney Harbour waters until further notice by the government.”
Paramedics, healthcare workers ‘performed a miracle’
Acknowledging Monday night’s attack, NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said St Vincent’s staff “performed a miracle” on Ms O’Neill.
He said healthcare workers made an “extraordinary intervention”, which included transferring blood from Bankstown to the scene at Elizabeth Bay about 30km away.
“This morning, I reached out to the critical care paramedics and just thanked them on behalf of the people of NSW for the extraordinary intervention,” he said.
“Now we have a person who is stable and will recover, but it will be a long and difficult road ahead, and our thoughts are with that person as they go through that recovery and rehabilitation phase.”
Education Minister Prue Car also shared her thanks to the veterinary bystander who helped to stabilise the woman.
“I want to say a special thanks to that legend of a bystander who came in and I believe may have made a makeshift tourniquet. Thank gosh she was a vet and actually stabilised her, we believe, before paramedics arrived on the scene,” he said.
“Thank you so much for saving that young woman’s life after the shocking incident.”
As of Tuesday morning, a media spokesman for St Vincent’s Hospital confirmed the woman was now in a stable condition after suffering serious injuries to her right leg.
Joe Jacobs, an employee at nearby cafe The Lookout, said the area was slightly busier than normal on Tuesday morning.
He said the area by the wharf was a popular swimming spot despite it not being designated for swimming.
“It’s pretty common to be fair, it’s not meant to be, but it is,” he said.
Councillor calls for ‘safe harbour baths’
City of Sydney councillor and Elizabeth Bay resident Lyndon Gannon said Monday night’s events were “shocking”.
“You don’t expect this to happen at the end of your street,” he said.
He said the attack was evidence there needed to be a priority for local and state governments to prioritise building safe harbour baths.
“The Harbour is a great place to swim, iconic even,” he said.
“As the Harbour gets cleaner, there will be an increase in shark activity. There used to be less sharks because the Harbour was so polluted (but) things have changed.”
Fellow councillor Linda Scott said she was “extremely concerned” to hear about the attack.
“Please, stay out of the Harbour until further notice,” she said on social media.
“Thank you to the bystanders who stood in to bravely help and to St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney for their care for the victim.”
The last fatal shark attack in Sydney was British expat Simon Nellist in 2022.
Mr Nellist, a 35-year-old diving instructor, was killed by a shark while swimming at nearby Little Bay near Malabar in February 2022.
The last fatal attack in Sydney Harbour was in 1963 when actor Marcia Hathaway was attacked while wading in Sugarloaf Bay near Middle Harbour.
One of the most famous attacks in the Harbour occurred in 2010 when navy diver Paul de Gelder was attacked by a 3m bull shark during a routine anti-terrorism training exercise off Garden Island in 2010.
He survived but his hand was severed in the near-fatal mauling and doctors were later forced to amputate his right leg above the knee.