24 October 2005

Surfer fights off great white shark during attack

Surfer Christiaan "Stiaan" van Zyl, 20, of Brackenfell, was flown to Groote Schuur Hospital by helicopter on Saturday after being attacked by a shark in chest-deep water near Gansbaai.

He underwent surgery to his right foot and doctors sewed his severed Achilles tendon together.

Speaking from his hospital bed on Sunday, Van Zyl said: "It was a Great White, I saw it. I thought I was going to die."

Van Zyl, an apprentice motor mechanic, was surfing alone at Uilenkraalsmond, the mouth of the Uilenkraals River east of Gansbaai, where his family have a holiday house. He was standing in chest-deep water holding onto his board, waiting for a wave when the shark attacked.

"I was looking out to sea, maybe 50 metres from the shore when I felt it on my foot. It took me from behind.

"He brought me up out of the water and was shaking me. It was a Great White, about two to three metres, not so big. I thought I was going to die, but still you fight. I hit it on its head with my elbow, I took everything I had and hit it, and it released me and I pushed it away. It happened so fast.

"In all this my left hand was still holding on to my board so I pulled myself onto it and paddled back to shore on a wave. I checked behind me and saw my foot was open and all bloody.

"When I got to the shore I tried to walk but my foot couldn't carry me. I dragged myself out on my arms and one knee. I waved to some people and they came running to help," Van Zyl said.

They put him on his surfboard and carried him through the lagoon to the beach.

"I was lying there and my mom came after someone phoned her.

"I must have been in shock because I went all tight and prickly."

The ambulance was called, as was the Skymed emergency helicopter.

A nursing sister on the beach bound Van Zyl's foot to help stop the bleeding and he was taken to a local doctor who put him on a drip and stabilised him.

Dr Cleeve Robertson, head of emergency medical services in the province, said because of the long distance from Cape Town, it was decided to use the Red Cross air mercy service helicopter to get Van Zyl to Groote Schuur.

Van Zyl said he was given an epidural anaesthetic because he was so thirsty.

"I was conscious during surgery, but was on my stomach so I couldn't see what they were doing. I just kept checking out the heart monitor."

Van Zyl's mother, Marietjie, of Tokai, said her son was "very lucky" not to have lost a limb.

"He has very bad bite marks and has lost some flesh, but he will be able to walk again," she said.

She said she and her children had "almost grown up" at Gansbaai and knew the sea well.

"In all that time I've never heard of a shark biting someone. It was a big shock. We think it's because of these (shark cage diving) boats here. We hear they feed the sharks. There's never been something like this here before," she said.

Greg Oelofse of the Shark Working Group said yesterday he had not yet spoken to Van Zyl.

"He apparently says it was definitely a Great White. I'm inclined to think it's unlikely as it would have taken his leg off.

"I obviously cannot say for certain, but I think it's more likely to have been a bronze whaler or a ragged tooth shark," Oelofse said.

Source: www.iol.co.za


At 2:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it says at the end it was unlikely it was a great white as it would have taken his leg off, but it sounds so much more macho to say a great white attacked you as opposed to a bronze whaler or a ragged-tooth shark


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