Shark mauls spear fisherman near Great Barrier Reef resort
By Nick Leys
A shark attacked a snorkeller on the Great Barrier Reef yesterday, apparently mauling the man as it went for the fish he had speared.
The 38-year-old man, from Coffs Harbour, underwent more than 10 hours' surgery last night following the attack near Heron Island. He had been snorkelling in shallow water with a friend when the 2.5-metre shark, thought to be a bronze whaler, attacked just after 9.30am at Sykes Reef, 10 nautical miles east of Heron Island.
The men had been watching a smaller shark in front of them when the bronze whaler struck from below, said a senior pilot with the Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service, Mr Dale Bourke.
Surgeons at Gladstone Base Hospital repaired the victim's severed muscle and tendons in his left forearm and elbow. A member of the helicopter rescue team, Dr Harvey Hunt, said there were many sharks in the area but they were usually timid.
An English tourist swimming at a Heron Island beach was attacked by a shark in 1996 and was lucky to keep her arm.
Yesterday's victim was holidaying in Gladstone and was part of a spearfishing party on the charter boat MV Booby Bird.
Dr Hunt said the man had speared a fish and it appeared the shark was going for the fish when it bit his arm.
The boat's crew sent out a distress call to Gladstone Coast Guards, who relayed the message to Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service.
Mr Bourke, Dr Hunt and a crewman left Rockhampton for the 60-minute flight to the boat. At the same time, Heron Island resort dispatched a nurse, Mr Matthew McMahon, and several dive masters in a speed boat.
They treated the victim and ferried him to Heron Island, where they were met by the helicopter crew almost two hours after the attack.
"The nurse from Heron did a fantastic job, but he had lost a lot of blood and looked very pale," Mr Bourke said.
Dr Hunt administered first aid and replaced lost blood while the helicopter flew to Rockhampton.
"I would be very surprised if he loses the arm," he said.