07 June 2005

Parents make peace with shark attack victim's fate

An outdoor enthusiast and a keen sportsman, medical student Henri Murray had a fighting spirit.

Murray, 22, had plans to travel to KwaZulu-Natal to offer his services to those in need and was also a sociable person who decided to study medicine to improve the lives of South Africans.

But when a huge Great White shark attacked him on Saturday while he was spearfishing near Miller's Point, his fighting spirit and a desperate attempt by his diving partner to save his life were not enough.

The shark approached Murray once and he managed to fight it off with his speargun.

The predator came back a second time and again Murray prodded it until it left, but the third time the creature took him in its jaws and disappeared.

Even though his dive buddy, Piet van Niekerk, shot the shark with a speargun, it was too late to save his close friend.

Van Niekerk managed to swim ashore unharmed and called for help to search for his friend.

Murray's flipper, mask and parts of his weight belt have been found by police divers.

They have also found a speargun and the buoy usually attached to it but there has been no sign of the 22-year-old.

A piece of wet suit containing his car keys in a flap pocket was found on a beach at Fish Hoek on Sunday, about 7km from where the attack took place.

"At this stage he is assumed dead but members of the public should alert authorities if they see anything related to the incident," National Sea Rescue Institute spokesperson Craig Lambinon said on Sunday.

Lambinon said although the search for Murray had been called off, police divers would have a last look around on Monday.

Murray's attack comes only seven months after 77-year-old Tyna Webb was taken by a Great White off Jagger Walk at Fish Hoek.

All that was found then was her red swimming cap.

There have been seven shark attacks in the Western Cape since 2002 but shark expert Geremy Cliff of the Natal Sharks Board said that if one looked at the patterns with shark attacks, there were bad years and good years.

"More people are going into the sea so there is a greater chance for humans to come into contact with sharks than there was before. If one also considers how many people spend hours in the water, the situation could probably be a lot worse."

Cliff said that although there was a slight possibility that the shark which attacked Murray might have been the same one which attacked Webb last year, he doubted that a great white which had developed an unusual taste for humans would wait seven months to feed.

Great Whites, Cliff said, usually took one investigative bite to determine whether they wanted to eat something.

However, their jaws were so powerful and the sharks were usually so big, that such a bite could prove fatal.

On Sunday afternoon Murray's family also received news that a piece of his diving suit had been located and a shark which might have attacked him had been spotted near Kalk Bay.

Murray's father, George Murray, said the family had made peace with what had happened to their son and although the entire family was sad, they were not bitter or resentful.

Murray said his wife, Lizette, and their four other sons would rely on each other's support to come to terms with Murray's death.

Murray, a fifth-year medical student at Stellenbosch University, had left behind a wonderful legacy, his friends and family said.

But for his mother he has left behind a little extra.

On Mother's Day he presented her with a necklace made of pearls and wood which he had made himself.

On Sunday, as she reflected on what had happened to her son, his mother clutched the necklace and spoke of his achievements, talents and ambitions as she held back tears.

"He was such a lively person. If he walked into a room he would light up the entire space and he really motivated us all.

"He was also very compassionate and really cared about other people," she said.

She added that her son had always had a positive outlook on life.

She said he had a healthy appetite and appreciated her home cooking as he lived in the university residence at Tygerberg Hospital.

George Murray comfortingly stroked his wife's hand as she spoke and said his son had no longer been a child - he had been an adult who loved his country and had been proudly South African.

"I really looked up to him as I look up to all my children and today I really feel that I have not only lost my son but a very good friend," Murray said.

He also said that although Henri Murray might no longer be around, the rest of his family was here and they would try their best to do the things that would have made Henri proud by doing more for others and working towards making South Africa a better place for all.

Henri leaves his father George, mother Lizette and brothers Sep, Wim, Andrew and Colyn.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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