16 January 2006

Australia: Man to continue scuba diving after shark attack

A scuba diver injured in a shark attack off Perth says he wrenched his bleeding arm from the predator's jaws and hid in a crevice on the ocean floor until he was rescued.

Despite his brush with a 3.5m white pointer Bernie Williams, of the northern Perth beachside suburb of Sorrento, vowed to continue diving - with a shark repellant.

He believes it was the arrival of a diving companion with a shark repellant that chased away the great white.

Mr Williams was diving for crayfish when he was bitten on the left arm by the shark about 5.5km off Perth's City Beach.

"I just felt like I'd been hit by a truck on the side ... and there was a very large shark head hanging off my arm, trying to chew it," Mr Williams told ABC radio.

The predator took Mr Williams for a "bit of a ride" before releasing him to try to take another bite.

But Mr Williams pulled his hand free and shot down to the ocean floor where he hid in a crevice.

"I had a perfect view of it when it came at me the second time, and across its head would have (measured) three or four hundred millimetres," he said.

The shark made several more attempts to attack Mr Williams, disappearing into the gloom and lunging back from different directions, before the arrival of his two diving companions, including one named Brian wearing a shark repellant.

"I think I was actually on the bottom hiding, and being chased around, for the best part of four or five minutes and then I ran into my buddies.

"We all bunched up around Brian, with the shark pod, ... and the shark disappeared."

The attack came as a group of fishermen in a boat, which was in the area near the man's unoccupied dive vessel, were being circled by a shark.

The fishermen hauled the trio into their boat and took them to shore where Mr Williams was rushed to Sir Charles Gairdner hospital.

A hospital spokeswoman said on Monday Mr Williams remained in a stable condition but was still undergoing treatment.

Mr Williams said the shark was the biggest he had ever seen in 20 years of diving but he would continue to scuba dive.

"But I'll definitely be investing in a shark pod," he said.

Swimmers at nearby beaches were not alerted to the shark attack because it occurred so far offshore, Fisheries officers said.

But a patrol vessel was sent to the area to hunt for the shark, and it continued to patrol, warning boats and divers that the attack had occurred.

There have been three shark fatalities in West Australia since 2000.

In November 2000, businessman Ken Crew, 49, died after his leg was ripped off by what was believed to be a white pointer shark up to four metres long off Cottesloe Beach.

In July 2004, Brad Smith, 30, died after being attacked by a shark while surfing at Gracetown, about 270km south-west of Perth.

In March last year, 26-year-old Geoffrey Brazier was killed by a six metre shark while snorkelling off the Abrolhos Islands, 60km west of Geraldton.

Source: www.smh.com.au/news/National


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