Adam Haling was attacked by a shark at Gnaraloo, Western Australia
A MAN has told of the terrifying moment he was attacked by a shark while spearfishing off the coast of Western Australia, and then the 10 hours he travelled to get to a hospital.
In what was meant to be a relaxed spearfishing trip with mates, Adam Haling, 31, from Perth, headed into waters at Gnaraloo, off the coast of Western Australia, with with his friend Mick Slocombe on Saturday.
Mr Haling had just speared a fish and was swimming back to shore in shallow waters no more than 2.5 metres deep, when a reef shark suddenly emerged from the water.
Haling told News Corp Australia the shark rammed him in the face, ripping off his snorkelling mask. The shock and impact of the shark hitting his face forced him to drop his catch of the day.
“I can remember it being right on my face, seeing the front of its mouth on my face,” he said.
“Its top jaw hit my mask, and the bottom jaw hit underneath my chin. As it came down it ripped my mask.”
Mr Haling said he then watched the shark circle him as he was holding his neck, where he had been bitten.
“I saw the fin do a big arc, and I thought, oh no...surely the shark realises that I have dropped the fish. It was a bit like Jaws,” he said.
“It then took the fish I had and it was gone. I think it was chasing the fish I had in my hand, and at the last minute it hit me instead the fish.”
Moments later, Haling said his first priority was to get himself and his friend out of the water.
Slocombe, 31, was still 100 to 200 metres away in the water, when Haling yelled out: “Shark. Help. We need to get out of here”.
“I was still holding my face together when I got Mick’s attention, and realised my whole body was covered in blood, and that I was in real danger with the amount of blood I was losing,” he said.
Haling then started running back to their car, before he realised he was losing too much blood and started feeling light headed.
“I then had to walk back to the car, I could feel my face was really loose, there was flapping skin, I knew it was an emergency. I realised I was really light in the head, I thought I’m in trouble here I might not make it to the car, I was thinking s**t, this could be it,“ he said.
Slocombe followed Haling’s blood trail and then drove him back to a camp site at nearby Gnaraloo Station. But it was only the beginning of what became a 10-hour journey for treatment.
At the station, an ambulance and The Royal Flying Doctor’s Service were contacted for help.
Two doctors who were holidaying at the station luckily came to Haling’s aid, gave him pain relief and determined he had not ruptured his carotid artery or jugular vein.
Haling said his snorkelling mask had saved him - otherwise he may not have survived the attack.
“My mask absolutely saved me, if the shark had hit me any lower, it would’ve taken my jugular out, and if it had of torn sideways it would have been all over,” he said.
Slocombe then drove Haling halfway to the next big coastal town of Carnarvon, which was 150 kilometres away where they met up with an ambulance.
Haling, who is a mining project manager, said they were able to save time on the road after the mine opened a private road for Haling and Slocombe’s use - the most direct route to Carnarvon.
They reached Carnarvon three hours after the attack. “Surprisingly I was running on adrenalin the whole time, the only thing you can do in these situations is make light of it. The nurses were very helpful and took great care of me, and cleaned me up,” he said.
While waiting to be flown to Perth, Haling recalled phoning his family and girlfriend Sonia Harvey, 31, who was “pretty stunned”.
“She couldn’t say anything for about 20 seconds, but I eased her into it. I told her I had been bitten by a shark, I’ve lost a lot of blood, but I’m fine,” he recalled.
Finally, he was flown by The Royal Flying Doctor’s Service to Royal Perth Hospital where he arrived just after midnight.
After three and a half hours of surgery, doctors were able to successfully sew his face back together.
“The doctors said I had very clean cuts, as a shark’s teeth is so sharp, they were able to sew everything back together, even the nurses never thought it’d come back together like that,” Haling said.
When he came out of surgery, Slocombe was there to meet him with his girlfriend, who he praised for being “very calm, cool and collected” during the emergency.
“Mick was really good, really calm. It was a big thing, it was quite traumatic…I’m still a bit shaken up but I’ve been pretty lucky,” he said.
He added the attack won’t deter him from going out into the ocean either.
“The ocean is a big part of my life, I’ve always understood and accepted the risks, and I don’t think the attack will deter me at all, it’ll probably make me do things differently in the water if I am spearfishing. Surely I can’t get bitten twice!”