City on shark alert

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Posted by on November 16, 2004 at 02:34:03:

In Reply to: GWS eats woman in South Africa posted by on November 15, 2004 at 21:00:16:

Cape Town - Someone who watched a huge shark kill an elderly woman at Fish Hoek said: "Never again will I go into the water after what I had to watch this morning."

The attack came on Monday morning when 78-year-old Tyna Webb, who had swum almost every day at Sunny Cove for the past 17 years, went out in the water about 06:55.

The person who saw the attack was one of 15 who later had to receive trauma counselling.

Webb was attacked by what is suspected to have been a six-metre Great White shark about 150m from the beach.

The attack did not, however, deter everyone.

By late on Monday afternoon, a couple of brave souls braved the False Bay waters again.

Tony Donkin, another witness to the attack, said he would definitely swim again.

"I have been swimming here for 50 years," he said at Sunny Cove beach on Monday. "What happened will not deter me from swimming again."

Had been warned about going out too far

A few kilometres further, at Muizenberg, bather Wesley van der Merwe said one had more chance of dying in a car accident than in a shark attack.

Clive Wakeford, president of the Fish Hoek Life-savers Club, said he had asked Webb, after previous shark-attack warnings, not to go out that far on her own.

"But, she was a philosophical person and said what would be, would be."

Paul Dennett, rear commodore of sailing of the False Bay Yacht Club, saw the attack from the balcony of his house.

"I saw a struggle in the water, and there was blood everywhere," he said on Monday.

"Initially, it looked like a seal, but then I realised it was a shark and that it had a human in its jaws.

"All that was left was her red swimming cap."

Although a boat from the NSRI later picked up the swimming cap, there was no sign of Webb's body by late Monday afternoon. The official search for her body was abandoned earlier on Monday.

The shark could have been lured to the area by the movement of white steenbras caught by fishermen in the Fish Hoek bay early on Monday morning.

According to the NSRI, the fishermen released the fish as it is illegal to catch with a trek-net as they were doing.

The fishermen apparently saw a shark near where the fish were released.

Ran to the beach to warn off others

Dennett's fiancée, Tanya Berry, also saw the shark attacking Webb.

"It circled her. Half its body then emerged from the water. It grabbed her and shook her around. There was lots of blood."

Berry started shouting in an attempt to attract the attention of a second swimmer.

While Dennett phoned the emergency services, she ran to the beach with her daughter to warn people intent on going swimming.

"Never again will I go into the water after what I had to watch this morning," said Berry. "I also think shark nets should be put up as a matter of urgency."

Shark experts agreed on Monday, however, that it would overhasty to put up shark nets in False Bay after this attack.

Timothy Atkins, a fisherman from Ocean View, saw how the shark "suddenly swam towards her (Webb)". "It grabbed her in her side and pulled her under the water," he said.

According to him, the shark dragged Webb deeper into the ocean.

"When it saw blood, it became even wilder. It made two turns, and then we did not see the woman again."

Friends who regularly joined Webb when she swam stood on the beach on Monday, devastated.

Saw a huge fin in the water

Carla Reiman said she heard fishermen shouting early in the morning.

"I ran to the beach, and when I arrived there, I saw a huge fin in the water. I then realised there's a shark in the water with her (Webb)."

She said there were two shark warnings on Sunday and one last Saturday.

After the alarm was sounded, a rescue vessel from the NSRI combed the area with a helicopter team of the South African Red Cross's Air Mercy Service and the navy.

According to Ian Klopper of the NSRI, they saw a giant shark from the chopper, but no sign of Webb.

A police diving team searched for the body, but later gave up.

The beach was closed until 20:00 on Monday, and foot patrols were employed.

Dennett said: "Everyone who goes into the ocean knows there is risk involved and, in a small community like ours, many people will think twice now before they go swimming."

According to Cape Town Routes Unlimited, they are not concerned about how the attack will discourage visitors to the Mother City.

Tips for avoiding shark attacks:

# Avoid swimming with an open wound, as sharks can detect blood easily.

# Don't swim at dawn, dusk, and at night when sharks are most active.

# Avoid swimming near open rivers.

# Don't swim alone, always swim in groups.

# When visiting an unfamiliar area, always ask for local advice.

# Be cautious, especially when spear fishing.

# Obey instructions from lifeguards and other beach officials.

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