Shark mauls surfer off Bells Beach
19th December 2006, 6:45 WST
A 25-year-old Melbourne man was flown to hospital last night after being mauled by a shark off Victoria's most famous surfing spot, Bells Beach.
Peter Galvin, of Yarraville, was surfing on the Winkipop reef break shortly before dusk when a shark lunged at his left leg.
He received puncture wounds to the top of his calf and a major gash under his knee when he was attacked about 8pm, Rural Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said.
Mr Galvin made his own way back to the beach, where bystanders tried to stem the blood flow while calling for paramedics, who later treated him at the scene.
An ambulance helicopter landed between rocks on the beach and took him to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he was reported last night to be in a satisfactory condition.
Metropolitan Ambulance Service spokesman Phil Cullen said: "He was surfing off Bells Beach at the time and the alarm was raised by another surfer, who ran up the beach in search of a mobile telephone.
"By the time our people arrived, the man was in significant pain and had to given pain relief before he could be loaded onto the helicopter."
A police spokeswoman at nearby Torquay, Lisa Kearney, said Mr Galvin was lucky his injuries were not more serious.
"A tooth was found in his wetsuit. He had been bitten from behind, resulting in wounds to his upper thigh and lower calf. He was very lucky to escape without being more seriously injured," Senior Constable Kearney said.
"The alarm was raised by two British backpackers in a car park overlooking the beach. His offsider, who was with him at the time, ran up the stairs to see if anybody was there to help out. So they came down and put pressure on the wounds until ambulance and local police got down there. We don't know who they are, but they've done well."
Senior Constable Kearney said Mr Galvin's mother lived in the Torquay area and had rushed to Melbourne to be with her son.
Surfing Australia spokesman and long-time Bells surfer Stephen Robertson said the attack happened at dusk and that witnesses reported seeing a shark between 21/2 and three metres long after Mr Galvin's left leg and surfboard were savaged.
Mr Robertson said he was unsure what type of shark it was but the aggressiveness of the strike and the extent of the wounds indicated it was likely to have been a white pointer.
"The shark left some teeth behind in the wound, so it won't be too hard to identify," he said.
He said the popular break next to Bells Beach, renowned as one of Victoria's best, was not a regular haunt for sharks. "I've surfed around there my whole life and I've never seen a single shark there," he said.
But he said that fishermen in the area had reported sharks in recent days and attributed this to warmer ocean temperatures affecting the region.
Murray Thomas, 34, surfed the break less than an hour before the attack and dashed back down to the beach when he saw the ambulance fly by him.
"He had a chunk taken out of his calf, just hanging off, and his board had been chomped, it had teeth marks underneath," Mr Thomas said. "The chopper landed and they stretchered him on and got him out of there."
Mr Thomas said other surfers in the water at the time had seen and heard nothing before the attack, and were surprised that the shark had bitten someone so close to shore. He did not see Mr Galvin reach safety but believed he had managed to paddle to the beach by himself.
Mr Thomas, who had been surfing at Winkipop for the past four days, said other travellers he was surfing with had seen seals playing and swimming in the area in recent days. "You think about that and then you think that he was in there at dusk, lying on his board," he said.
He said the conditions had not been ideal, with messy small waves and a strong breeze.
Last night's incident was the first reported shark attack in Victoria since 2005, when 18-year-old Tom Burke was bitten off Flinders, on the Mornington Peninsula, receiving minor injuries.
The most recent confirmed fatal shark attack in Victoria was in 1956.
Rural Ambulance Victoria's Mr Mullen said shark attacks on the state's west coast were rare, and he could not remember when the previous one occurred.
Shark attacks in Australian waters this year:
DECEMBER 2 Zak Golebiowski, 15, of Mount Gambier, was body boarding with his brother, 18, off Wharton Beach near Esperance, when a 5m shark bit off part of his right leg.
JANUARY 7 Sarah Whiley, 21, had her arms bitten off by what was thought to be a group of bull sharks off Amity Point, North Stradbroke Island, in the first fatal shark attack at any of Queensland's 84 designated coastal swimming spots.
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