Miss Nita Derritt, a 30 year old saleswoman from Hurlstone Park "was badly mutilated by a 10 ft monster in five to six feet of water".
A piercing scream and the woman disappeared beneath the thrashing water. "She then seemed suddenly to rush out to a distance of several yards as if the shark had taken her legs from under her and pulled her out.
The attack took place at Bronte Beach in the twilight hours of Wednesday, February 13, 1924. Miss Nita Derritt, a 30 year old saleswoman from Hurlstone Park "was badly mutilated by a 10 ft monster in five to six feet of water". Bronte lifesavers, Eric Bennett and Jas Brown, together with Constable C.E. Rushbrooke, ran bravely into the water and brought her to shore. "The left leg had been taken off from below the knee and the right foot was torn away from the ankle, hanging only by a thread." Miss Derrett miraculously survived but had both legs amputated.
"Shark!" No other cry frightens beachgoers more. The very word stirs emotions and conjures up primeval fears of unseen horrors.
Since the advent of shark meshing off Sydney beaches no death has occurred from shark attack since 1937. Sharks caught in the nets include the grey nurse, hammerheads, tigers, whalers, pointers, seven-gilled, blacktip and Port Jackson.
Bondi had two grim fatal attacks within a month of each other in 1929 Colin Stewart, 14, died after being savaged on January 12, in waist deep water on a sandbar 40 yards off the beach, and John Gibson, 39, was taken by "one of the monsters that cruise off Bondi", on February 8.
A year earlier saw a happier outcome. Max Steele, 19, a Bondi lifesaver, was chasing big waves on the afternoon of April 14, 1928. It was dull and cloudy and a large sea was running when the shark grabbed him by the leg, pulling him several metres under water. "The first thing I knew of the attack was when I saw blood in the swirling water", the victim later recalled. He courageously fought and punched the shark until it released him. The shark had stripped the flesh from his leg but he managed to swim 200 metres back to the shore where he collapsed. Bondi lifesavers Tom Meagher and Allen Rennix, with beach inspector, Stan McDonald, helped pull him onto the beach. Taken to hospital, Max Steele had his leg amputated, but eight days later he was able to sit in his father's car and watch a surf carnival. Steel(e) indeed!
Published by Waverley Library from sources in the Local History Collection.
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