06 June 2005

Friend tries to rescue shark-attack victim

In a horrific attack off Miller's Point on Saturday a massive shark came out of the depths, seized young spearfisherman, Henri Murray, 22, of Durbanville and disappeared with him underwater.

His dive buddy, Piet van Niekerk, 23, apparently shot the creature with his speargun in a desperate attempt to drive it away but he did not see his friend again.

Both divers, who were spearfishing about 100 metres off the point in front of the Black Marlin restaurant, are believed to be students at Stellenbosch University, the victim a medical student, according to one source.

Head of Cape Town emergency services Doctor Cleeve Robertson said Van Niekerk was extremely traumatised after the attack which happened at about 3.45pm.

"He saw his friend being hit by a very big shark and he shot it to try to chase it away before swimming for shore and running for help."

Some fishermen came to Van Niekerk's assistance and used their boat to search for Murray as well as calling the police and National Sea Rescue Institute.

Dave Estment, a member of the local boating fraternity, was sitting at the edge of the jetty looking out over the sea when the attack happened.

"It was incredibly fast. The hwo spearfishermen were about 100m from the beach. Suddenly a huge shark surged from under the water taking the one diver up to his arms in its jaws. It must have been massive to have done that.

"Then the shark and the man just vanished."

Estment said boats frantically went out to try and find Murray but it was too late. Later a helicopter helped look for him. Last night the search was called off but police said it would resume again on Sunday.

PJ Veldhuizen of the NSRI's Skymed division said they had found a speargun and a rubber swimfin about a metre below the surface as well as some fish which were on Murray's stringer [where spearfishermen hook their catch] attached to his buoy. It is believed the shark could have been attracted by the fish.

Another witness said a mask, snorkel and a weightbelt had also been found, the weightbelt so damaged it appeared as if it had been cut through by a knife.

There was no sign of Murray.

Horrified onlookers and witnesses lined the road at Miller's Point hoping for news and dispersed only when it became too dark for the helicopter to
continue the search.

Before the latest attack the Sharks Board in Durban confirmed that there had been a steady but small increase in the number of shark attacks over the past few years.

A spokesperson said there were a number of contributing factors. One was that surfing had really taken off in South Africa, with far more people in the water.

The greater the number of people in the water, and the longer they stayed in the water, the greater the likelihood of attacks, he said.

According to Sharks Board statistics, there have been over 70 attacks in Cape waters since 1990, of which eight have been fatal.

  • In March British tourist Chris Sullivan, 32, was attacked by a Great White shark at Noordhoek. He had to undergo four hours of surgery to his right leg and foot.

  • In November 2004 Tyna Webb, 77,was killed by a Great White off
    Jagger Walk on the Fish Hoek coast. Only her red swimming cap was found after the attack.

  • In June 2004 Nkosinathi Mayaba, 21, a diver from Gansbaai, was fatally attacked off Pearly Beach on the Cape south coast.

  • In April 2004 surfer JP Andrews lost his lower leg to a Great White at Muizenberg.

  • In September 2003 a huge Great White killed bodyboarder David Bornman, 19, of Newlands at a popular surf break off Noordhoek beach.

  • In December 2002 diver Craig Bovim was injured in an attack by a Great White off Scarborough.

    Source: www.iol.co.za


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