Shark attack: surfer missing after multiple witnesses see incident at Western Australia beach

Graham Readfearn
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Kike Calvo/Alamy Stock Photo</span>
Photograph: Kike Calvo/Alamy Stock Photo

A surfer is missing after receiving “a serious shark bite” in front of fellow surfers at a beach near Esperance in Western Australia.

Police on Friday evening said several witnesses had seen the man being attacked at Kelp Beds beach in Wylie Bay before 11am local time. A surfboard with “obvious signs of shark attack” was recovered a short time later.

“There were approximately six to eight surfers that were in the water at the time and a number of bystanders on the beach as well that all witnessed the attack,” Sen Sgt Justin Tarasinski told reporters on Friday.

“So yeah it was busy at the time. A number of witnesses have seen the attack occur. We have obviously taken some witness accounts but we won’t go into detail on those accounts just at this point in time.”

The state’s premier, Mark McGowan, revealed that another surfer had tried to pull the victim away from the shark.

“Unfortunately he hasn’t been recovered at this point in time,” the premier told reporters. “It’s a very, very difficult and potentially tragic situation happening in Esperance.”

The popular beach has seen shark attacks before. Laeticia Brouwer, 17, died following a shark bite at the same beach in April 2017. In 2014, surfer Sean Pollard lost an arm and his other hand in a shark attack at the same site.

Witnesses told Nine newspapers that they had seen a shark while swimming in the water moments before the attack.

“I spotted a shark, 2.5-3 metres big, about 50 to 100 metres away. I called out to [my partner] to get out and next minute we had [ambulances] fly past us,” Sammy Bamford said.

Tarasinski said a large search crew had been looking for the surfer. It included two surf life saving jet skis, two volunteer Marine Rescue vessels, and two other vessels.

The senior sergeant said the surfer’s board had washed up on the beach not long after the attack.

“The surfboard washed up nearby to where the attack occurred with obvious signs of shark attack,” he said. “The search will continue today as long as conditions are favourable and for as long as those conditions allow us.”

Related: Australian pro surfer Matt Wilkinson's narrow escape from shark caught on camera

An earlier statement from the WA primary industries department said it was helping police with “a serious shark bite incident at Kelp Beds beach in Esperance”.

Boats were in the water as part of a marine search and rescue operation, the statement said. Beaches were closed from Wylie Head to Cape Le Grand National Park.

Earlier this week, drone footage captured professional surfer Matt Wilkinson’s narrow escape from a great white shark measuring about 2.5 metres off the coast of Ballina in northern New South Wales.

There have been six confirmed deaths from shark bites in Australia in 2020.

Experienced diver Gary Johnson, 57, was killed by a shark near Cull Island in Esperance on Western Australia’s south coast in January.

A shark killed 23-year-old Queensland wildlife ranger, Zachary Robba, in April off North West Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef.

Gold Coast surfer Rob Pedretti, 60, died after he was attacked at Salt Beach at South Kingscliff in northern NSW in June.

In July, a 36-year-old Sunshine Coast man died after being mauled while spearfishing off Queensland’s Fraser Island.

Later the same month, a teenager died while surfing at Wilsons Headland at Wooli Beach off northern NSW.

A 46-year-old Gold Coast man, Nick Slater, died in September after being bitten by a shark while surfing at Greenmount Beach at Coolangatta.