16 January 2006

Aussie tragedy sparks calls for shark fence

North Stradbroke Island tourism operators have called for a shark-proof swimming enclosure to be built off Amity Point where a young woman was fatally mauled by up to three bull sharks at the weekend.

Sarah Kate Whiley, 21, from McDowall on Brisbane's northside, was attacked while swimming in waist-high water about 15m off the beach late on Saturday afternoon.

She was rescued by local fishermen and flown to the Princess Alexandra Hospital but died soon after arrival.

Sian Whiley told Channel 9 last night that her sister was a competent swimmer and a wonderful companion.

"Sarah was the prettiest girl I ever saw," she said. "She was an excellent swimmer . . . she could swim before she could walk."

Local schoolgirl Tara Deed, 14, said onlookers tried to stem the bleeding with towels while waiting for paramedics.

"When I realised how bad it was, I just started shaking," she said.

A woman alerted Tara to the attack but she said she initially thought the woman had seen a pod of dolphins.

The island's beaches were closed to swimmers yesterday but were expected to reopen today.

Redland Shire Mayor Don Seccombe said council would consider installing a shark-proof fence when councillors returned from holidays. In the meantime warning signs would be erected.

Local fishermen said they were not surprised a pack of bull sharks was believed to be responsible.

Point Lookout resident Mal Starkey – who has run fishing tours in the area for more than a decade – said bull sharks were among the most ferocious and unpredictable of shark species.

Scuba diving tour operator Steve McKinnon expected there would be an impact on tourism and called for shark enclosures.

Acting Premier Anna Bligh said there would be an immediate inquiry into the tragedy.

She said it was the first fatal attack in the 44-year history of Queensland's shark safety protection program which guarded 84 beaches, including Amity, with nets and baited drum lines.

There are only two drum lines 100m offshore but no nets at Amity Point.

Source: www.thecouriermail.news.com.au


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