Tourist who escaped shark attack faces legal action

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Posted by on March 31, 2005 at 18:58:32:

In Reply to: Shark experts set to sue media posted by on March 30, 2005 at 23:34:26:

The British tourist trapped in a steel cage as a great white shark attacked is being threatened with legal action for damaging the diving business that organised his adventure.

White Shark Ecoventures in South Africa is considering suing Mark Currie, a retail manager from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, for loss of earnings following claims that he had exaggerated the attack that had occurred last December.

Mr Currie was in a specially built, half-submerged steel cage lashed to the side of a diving boat when a large great white shark began to circle after being lured with a head of a tuna fish slung over the side of the boat.

Without warning, the shark began to ram the cage he was in with open jaws. "I didn't have any breathing apparatus or even a snorkel but I instinctively tried to back myself into a corner of the cage under the water," he said.

"The captain of the boat was bashing the shark on the head with a metal pole, but that just seemed to make it worse. It was thrashing the water in a real frenzy," he said. Marietta Hopley, a co-owner of White Shark Ecoventures near Cape Town, said that she had taken sworn affidavits from the captain, dive master and other passengers who were on the vessel at the time of the incident.

They said that the incident did not happen as portrayed in the media, Ms Hopley said. For instance, the captain said that he had no recollection of hitting the shark over the head with a metal bar, nor did he remember anyone having to fight for their life or seeing a shark chew through the metal bars of the cage, Ms Hopley said.

Mr Currie said yesterday that he had not been contacted directly by Ms Hopley but he had heard that she intended to take legal action.

"The shark attacked the cage and everything that happened was true and I've got footage and photographs to prove it so I don't know what she could sue me for," Mr Currie said. "She says the cage was strong but I've got a picture of the cage afterwards where the shark has mangled it," he said.

Conservationists believe that the great white shark - one of the biggest marine predators - is unfairly vilified by the media, which often portrays them as aggressive creatures.

Experts at the Shark Trust, a conservation organisation in Plymouth, said that the great white shark was probably "mouthing" the cage out of curiosity or in response to aggression rather than a genuine attempt to attack and eat the person who was in it. "This event and its repercussions are most unfortunate. Such unfounded negative projection of sharks undermines the excellent work undertaken with the conservation community," said Richard Peirce, chairman of the Shark Trust.

"An opportunity to witness a white shark in the wild is a great privilege and its is a pity that the experience was a negative one for Mr Currie," Mr Peirce added.

"Given the immense predatory power and sophistication of great white sharks, it is clear that if one wanted to devour a human being it could always be successful," said the Shark Trust.

"Yet most people mouthed or bitten by great white sharks in fact survive. It is presumed that whatever the reason, when white sharks bite people, in the majority of cases it is not because they wish to eat them," it said. Mr Currie, meanwhile, has no regrets about his trip. "I enjoyed it. I'm glad it happened and I got away with it without a scratch. I will always remember it," he said.

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