SORE, bandaged and stitched up after being bitten on the arm by a shark at Smiths Lake on Sunday, Otto Lee had the satisfaction of watching that shark swim away to safety on Tuesday morning.
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) officers herded the protected grey nurse shark out of the mouth of the lagoon using a net and a harness.
Seeing the DPI staff handling the shark, and getting a good look at the head and those teeth, gave Otto a whole new appreciation for how lucky he had been.
“There were teeth everywhere and it was quite aggressive – I think it could have easily taken my hand off,” he said.
Otto was out with his children and some friends on Sunday, when they spotted a few grey nurse sharks swimming around in Smiths Lake near the shallows. They noticed one was left behind and appeared to be landlocked.
“It looked casual, swimming laps up and down, but it was stuck in there,” Otto said.
“It was in a vulnerable spot. I was worried some people might kill it – thinking they were protecting their kids from a dangerous shark, or there are thrill-seekers out there who might hurt it.”
So Otto formed a plan to lasso the shark, which was deceptively calm, and lead it into deeper water.
But the lasso would not work, and the rope kept slipping off, so Otto thought his next move would be to pin the shark, maybe wrap a rope around the mouth and a few towels around it and carry it to safety in a cradle-hold.
“I had another adult there, and thought my son – he’s 13 – could help carry it as well. It looked half asleep, so mellow, just cruising along,” he said.
“I think I vastly underestimated it.”
Otto pinned the shark, but when he tried to lift it out of the water, he said it squirmed free and grabbed hold of his arm.
“It was quick as lightning. I looked down and saw my arm in its mouth.”
There was no pain immediately but lots of blood as he left the water and his friend’s wife performed first aid.
Otto’s wife drove him to Manning Base Hospital where, after a wait of three hours, his arm received 20 stitches. The family finally made it home to Smiths Lake, after the initial bite at 3pm, at 11pm.
The family contacted the Department of Primary Industries on Monday morning to report the incident. Otto, still sore and sorry, went down to the lagoon on Monday to see the shark. The injuries to his forearm will mean a break from his work as a wall and floor tiler.
He watched on as the shark swam away to safety yesterday morning, happy to see the shark in the hands of experts.
“Seeing them in action, I saw it was silly thing to do,” Otto said.
“If anyone found themselves in that situation, they should call the experts.”