A surfer has been killed today in a horrifying shark attack near a crowded beach in Western Australia.
Eyewitnesses said the shark – believed to be a great white – came up beneath him, grabbed the young man (aged in his early 20s) and pulled him below the surface.
The surfer, who has yet to be named, was riding on a bodyboard – a cut-down version of a surfboard – when the shark attack occurred near Cape Naturaliste in the south west of Western Australia.
The victim was frolicking with a group of five friends off popular Bunkers Beach when the shark struck.
The young surfer was bitten in two by the shark, which had grabbed him from the waist down.
An eyewitness, Kurt Morris, who was having lunch at the Bunker Bay Cafe with his family when shark attack happened, said he had been told by the victim’s friends that he had been torn apart.
“They were saying they were just two meters away from him,” Morris said.
“From the waist down, it was all gone.”
“Surfers were sprinting out of the water to their cars, driving to nearby surfing breaks to let others know of the shark.”
“It was about 50 metres from the shore. No-one is going back in the water.”
Hamish McLeay, Bunkers Beach Café’s manager, said the water was full of people when the attack happened.
“There were at least another 20 people in the water but it seemed that no-one had seen the shark lurking about,” McLeay said.
“There’s a big seal colony around the coast and the shark might have mistaken the young man for one of the seals – it’s been known to happen.”
Police spokesman Graham Clifford said officers believed they knew who the dead man was, but it has not been revealed whether his body has been found.
“The person was body-boarding at the time with a mate and also three or four to five others were in the water at the time but unfortunately he was taken from the lower part of the body,” Clifford said.
Police confirmed that the man had been torn in half and the lower half of the man’s body had been ripped away.
“He was bodyboarding with about four or five of his mates when he was taken out of the group.
“He’s lost the lower half of his body and he’s deceased.”
Friends of the victim have told police that the young surfer had been staying in the popular wine-growing area of Margaret River. The young man is believed to have been on holiday from the east of Australia.
The shark attack occurred near a popular surfing area known as The Boneyards, near Bunker Bay.
According to police, the victim had been positively identified but his name would not be released until his family had been informed.
Enrique Hillman, a surf shop owner told W.A.Today that a sombre mood had spread across the south-west region following the tragedy.
Hillman also agreed with local people that the shark had probably been attracted to the area by seals that were known to inhabit the area.
“There’s a seal colony just next to the lighthouse – there’s a channel the seals use along there.”
Hillman believed it was strange that the shark had attacked in the middle of the day, pointing out that they usually occurred early in the morning or at dusk.
According to the locals, it was the first major shark attack they could recall in the area, which is a popular surfing and fishing spot.
But local people said it was known that sharks prowled the waters and there was also the added danger of powerful undersea currents.
Australian Shark Attack File said there have been 13 other fatal shark attacks around the continent since 2002.
Today’s tragedy on the Australian beach was the second this year – in February an abalone diver was killed when he was attacked by two sharks, believed to be great whites, in Coffin Bay, South Australia.
Not all attacks have been by great whites. In January 2006, Sarah Whiley, 21, was mauled by three bull sharks while swimming in waist-deep water at Amity Point off Queensland’s North Stradbroke Island.
In July 2004 a bronze whaler is believed to have been involved in an attack that killed Brad Smith, 29, in the south west of Western Australia.