06 June 2005

'Monster' shark spotted in False Bay waters

The shark believed to have cut short the life of Durbanville medical student Henri Murray on Saturday, was spotted in False Bay on Sunday, dragging a fishing buoy.

The shark was spotted by fishermen at Roman Rock lighthouse in Simon's Town, and at Kalk Bay harbour. According to their reports, a spear fired by Murray's friend, Piet van Niekerk, remained embedded in the shark, which has also been dragging his spear-gun and buoy along with it.

On Sunday, Murray's car keys were found in a flap pocket of a piece of wetsuit that washed up on Fish Hoek beach, National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesperson Craig Lambinon told the Cape Times.

Murray, 22, had been spear-fishing 150 metres offshore of Miller's Point for about an hour with Van Niekerk, 23, when, at 3.45pm, a Great White shark tried to get at him from below. He shouted to Van Niekerk, 10m away, to swim to shore, but his friend instead came to help him.

Murray managed to evade the Great White twice, but on its third attempt, the shark took him, breached and pulled him under. Van Niekerk, a few metres away, fired his speargun at the shark in the hope it would leave Murray, but to no avail.

Van Niekerk immediately swam back to shore, took off his diving gear and ran to a nearby slipway to ask for help.

Emergency services - including NSRI, Metro rescue, and Simon's Town Police and Fire services - were contacted at about 4.15pm, and arrived on the scene within 20 minutes.

The search for Murray was officially called off at 3.30pm on Sunday, though the area will continue to be monitored for the next few days, Lambinon said.

A Skymed helicopter, a private catamaran and police divers searched the six-metre-deep water to find only the top half of a wetsuit, a speargun, flipper, mask, snorkel and parts of a weight belt. The weight belt had been shredded, said Captain David Lehr of the Cape Town diving unit.

In addition, Ian Klopper of the NSRI Skymed crew, one of the first on the scene, said they had found a flotation buoy and severed stringer line, normally attached to the speargun to hook captured fish.

The shark may have been drawn to the divers by their catch, according to one report.

Grant Munro, who saw the incident from a bungalow in the caravan park, said: "The shark was a massive thing, probably five metres long. It lifted him out of the water, and disappeared within seconds."

Murray, of Durbanville, was the third of five children, and was in his fifth year studying medicine at Stellenbosch University.

He loved the outdoors, rock climbing, hiking and went spearfishing once a month.

Van Niekerk, also a fifth-year medical student at Stellenbosch, had been friends with Murray since their first year.

Said Cleeve Robertson, the director of Cape Town Emergency Medical Services: "To witness something like that happening to a close friend of his was traumatic, physically and mentally.

"He was right next to Murray when it happened."

Van Niekerk joined rescue workers on the boat on Sunday to help search for his friend.

Henri's father George said on Sunday: "We all love him deeply. Henri was a model person - well rounded, outgoing - and he had a deep interest in people. The room lit up when he came in."

His dad said it gave them peace to know that Henri had a meaningful life.

"He wanted to better the world, and to bring hope to others. He made an impact on people," he said.

Henri's father expresed his gratitude for the hardworking rescue crews, saying: "The appreciation we have for rescue workers and search crews is enormous."

Murray's brother Wim, 20, said: "Henri was truly loved and an example to all of us.

"He was a remarkable brother - there was a special bond among the five of us.

"We are lucky to have had him for these 22 years."

The attack on Murray was the second in the Western Cape in three months.

Shark attacks have been on the rise over the past few years, according to the Natal Sharks Board.

There have been more than 70 attacks, eight of them fatal, off the Western Cape since 1990.

The last shark attack here was in March, when a British tourist was bitten on the leg by a Great White off Noordhoek.

Murray is survived by his parents, George and Lizette, and his brothers, Andrew, 16, Wim, 20, Giuseppe, 25, and Colyn, 27.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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