Swimmer dies in 1st deadly Sydney shark attack in nearly 6 decades: NPR

A surfer carries his board through the water next to a sign declaring a shark sighting on Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia, November 24, 2015.

David Gray/Reuters


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A surfer carries his board through the water next to a sign declaring a shark sighting on Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia, November 24, 2015.

David Gray/Reuters

A swimmer has died after being bitten by a shark on a beach in suburban Sydney, Australian authorities have announced, marking the first fatal shark attack in the city in nearly 60 years.

Emergency services arrived in the Buchan Point area, Malabar at around 4.35pm local time on Wednesday following a report of a shark attacking a swimmer in the water, according to police in New South Wales. Officers found human remains in the water.

“Unfortunately, this person had suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of the attack and there was nothing paramedics could do when we arrived at the scene,” NSW Ambulance Inspector Lucky Phrachanh said in a statement.

NSW Police did not give further details but said they would prepare a report for the coroner and work with the state Department of Primary Industries to investigate the circumstances surrounding the swimmer’s death.

An anonymous, clearly shaken eyewitness told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he was fishing off rocks nearby when he saw a man wearing a wetsuit and swimming across the bay being dragged underwater by a large shark in an attack that lasted several seconds.

“He was screaming at first, then when he fell there was so much splashing,” he said. “The shark won’t stop.”

Buchan Point is located between Little Bay Beach and Malabar Beach in the locality of Randwick City.

Randwick City Council has announced that all beaches in the area will be closed for 24 hours “as part of standard operating procedures following a fatal attack”. Lifeguards will patrol the beaches looking for other shark sightings.

“The coast is our community’s backyard. Little Bay is normally such a quiet and beautiful place loved by families,” Randwick Mayor Dylan Parker said. “Losing someone to a shark attack like this is scary. We are all in shock.”

The council said it was the first fatal shark attack in Randwick City “in recent memory”, noting that a non-fatal shark attack occurred south of the area in February 2018.

In fact, it was the first fatal shark attack on a Sydney beach since 1963, reports the ABC. Actress Marcia Hathaway, who was 32 at the time, died after a shark bit her twice in the leg as she stood in murky waters just 30 inches deep in the bay by Sugarloaf.

Witnesses to Wednesday’s attack said a great white shark “pierced under the victim,” according to the International Shark Attack File, a global database housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“White sharks often hunt by swimming directly under their prey, using shadows to select targets,” he explains. “Unfortunately, due to poor vision and cloudy water, it is likely difficult for sharks to distinguish between humans and traditional prey species such as seals.”

There have been 76 unprovoked shark bites in Australian waters in the past five years, according to trackers. Four of the 11 fatal attacks took place elsewhere in New South Wales.

The ISAF says you are more likely to die from heart disease, drowning, lightning and fireworks than from a shark attack.

And authorities in New South Wales say that while most sharks are harmless to humans, swimmers can take steps to minimize their encounters. These include swimming in a guarded area between red and yellow flags, avoiding swimming and surfing at dawn, dusk and night, and avoiding river mouths, murky waters and schools of baitfish.

This story originally appeared in the morning edition live blog.

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