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10/15/2007 Linda Whitehurst (Australia)

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10/15/2007 Linda Whitehurst (Australia)

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'I am happy to be alive and have all my limbs'

4:42p.m. 15 October 2007
| Andy Parks

ImageLinda Whitehurst shows the small wound she received while fighting off a 3m great white shark which had attacked her after toppling her from her surf ski. Photo: Northern Star

"I’m happy to be alive and to have all my limbs." They were the first words that Linda Whitehurst said after being attacked by a three-metre great white shark off Byron Bay.

Linda and her husband Glen were about 150 metres from shore after paddling around to Wategos, and were heading back towards the surf club at the time of the attack.

"We were riding the waves back in and I saw this big thing underneath me. At first I thought maybe it was a dolphin or a turtle so I kept paddling.

"Then I turned around and saw this big dark object and I knew it was a shark. I thought 'Oh my God' and screamed and tried to scare the shark."

Glen Whitehurst was paddling in his own 6m foot surf ski when he heard his wife scream and saw the shark attack her.

"It lifted itself out of the water and onto the back of the boat. It had the back of her boat in its mouth and gave it a good shake."

Linda was knocked out of her surf ski and into the water. Glen said that after she was knocked out of the boat she went underwater and at that stage he was "very concerned."


The teeth marks left by the shark.

Linda thought her time had come: "I thought this is it, he’s going to grab my leg or ankle," she said.

But the couple, who spend a lot of time in the water and described themselves as "competitive water sports people", had discussed what to do if they ever found themselves in a situation where they were attacked by a shark.

Linda says she didn’t panic and that adrenalin took over.

"I just tried making as much motion and noise as I could to show the shark that I’m bigger and stronger than it," Linda said. She said she got her paddle and was punching the shark in the face as hard as she could.

"I saw a program on SBS TV just last week about sharks and surf skis. I’m fascinated by shark attacks," she said. "I saw that look in its eye that I’ve seen so many times before on TV."

"We’ve talked about it a lot," said Glen. The policy is if it goes for you, then you go for it."

Linda managed to beat the shark away and swim back to her surf ski which had drifted away. Glen called out for her to swim over to his surf ski, but hers was closer. She managed to get back in and paddle herself to shore. "You just go; the adrenalin is pumping so fast that you can do anything," she said.

Linda is a registered nurse and used to work at Byron Bay hospital. She said she wasn’t panicked once she was out of the water. Glen drove her to the hospital where she was treated and given four stitches in her forearm.

The couple seemed surprisingly level-headed after their ordeal and were happy to talk to the media, saying they hoped their experience could help others who might find themselves in a similar situation.

"Every year at this time there are great whites around here," said Glen. "Our friend George Greenough saw one last week. We know we live with them, it’s their backyard."

The beach was closed from The Pass to Main Beach Car Park from just after 11am and reopened at 2pm.

Stephen Leahy, the co-ordinator of the Northern NSW Lifeguard Service said that the shark was spotted by the Brunswick Heads Coastal Patrol just after midday and shepherded back out to sea.

"No beach is ever 100 per cent safe, but there is nothing to suggest that the shark is still in the area," he said. "We will work with the local police to continue to monitor the beaches over the next few days," he said.

A group of English backpackers on the beach told The Northern Star they would go back in. "Maybe I won’t go too deep though," said Mark Fenson.

"I might send my friends in first," said Dean Cowan.

- Northern Star

http://www.thedaily.com.au/news/2007/oc ... ls-ordeal/
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