01 November 2004

Shark bites cage-dive operator

Cape Town - A world-famous shark expert and cage-dive operator had a close call on Sunday when a Great White shark bit his foot.

Andr� Hartman, 52, was busy chumming - trying to attract sharks - during the incident.

According to JP Botha, a colleague who was on the boat with him, Hartman sat on the boat's engine and dangled his foot over the side of the boat.

Botha and Hartman were taking clients from the Czech and Slovak republics for a dive with the sharks.

"Andr� watched how a shark approach the boat and then swim away. He looked away for split-second as someone on the boat spoke to him," Botha said.

"When he looked in the direction of the water again, he saw the shark going for his foot.

"After a stroke in January that affected his right leg, he couldn't move it as fast as he had to. For this reason he did not get his foot out of the water in time and got bitten by the shark," Botha said.

Botha said Hartman was not seriously injured, although the wound bled a lot. According to Botha, everyone on the boat stayed calm during the incident.

"We were about 2 km from the dock. We were back in a flash, and Andr� was taken to the doctor's rooms.

Freak accident
The doctor treated Hartman's wound and he was sent home with 20 stitches to his foot.

According to Botha, Hartman wanted to go out on the boat again on Sunday. "He has to rest for a full week, however, to give his foot the chance to fully recover."

Botha, who describes the incident as a "freak accident", believes it's the first time in eight years that something like this has happened.

According to him there is no "logical connection between the throwing of bait" and what happened to Hartman.

There was an uproar earlier this year about the use of bait by shark-cage divers.

Those opposed to the use of bait are of the opinion that cage divers endanger the public because sharks start associating people with food.

It is feared that this could lead to an increase in shark attacks.


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