Woman escapes white shark attack (Australia)

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Posted by on October 15, 2007 at 09:22:37:

A woman knocked from her surf ski by a white pointer shark near Byron Bay fought off the predator with her paddle before making it ashore with just a small bite wound to her wrist.

Measuring about 2.5m, the shark tipped 52-year-old Linda Whitehurst off her surf ski at The Pass, one of the most popular surf breaks at the NSW north coast tourist town.

The attack occurred at about 11.30am (AEST) on Monday as Mrs Whitehurst and her husband Glen were paddling some 150m from shore.

A shaken Mrs Whitehurst said she feared the shark would take hold of her leg before she was able to fight it off.

"My ankle's gone, he's going to grab a leg - that's what I thought," Mrs Whitehurst told Network Ten.

Her husband Glen described seeing the shark rise up and bite the back of his wife's surf ski.

"(It) literally lifted itself in the back of Linda's boat ... and had the back of the boat in its mouth and gave it a shake," he said.

Mrs Whitehurst said once she was in the water, she repeatedly struck the shark with her paddle until it let go.

"I just kept punching, punching, punching," she said, demonstrating how she thrust the paddle at the shark.

When the shark retreated, Mrs Whitehurst, an experienced paddler from Coopers Shoot, 6km south of Byron Bay, was able to make her way to shore before going to hospital.

She required four stitches in the small wound the shark left on her wrist.

"She received a few stitches in her arm, but there was no other damage, fortunately," a Byron Bay Hospital spokesman said.

The beach was closed after the attack and half an hour later, Surf Life Saving boat crews spotted the shark and chased it out to sea.

The beach was reopened about 2pm (AEST) on Monday, northern NSW lifeguard coordinator Stephen Leahy said.

News of the attack spread quickly around the Byron Bay area, with popular learn-to-surf classes cancelled and hundreds of beachgoers staying out of the surf despite the perfect spring conditions.

Authorities said it was unusual to find sharks so close to shore at Byron Bay, but Mr Leahy said there was a similar incident last week.

"There was a similar incident last Tuesday when a man in a kayak was menaced by a great white about eight to 10 foot long at Wategos Beach, just the next beach around from where this woman was attacked today," he said.

"It appears to be unusual that a shark would menace people like this.

"It's not unusual to see sharks when you are out at sea, but for one to ... go to today's extremes, it's most unusual."

The attack was the second in Australia in three days.

A 31-year-old Brisbane man was bitten by a bronze whaler shark on Saturday while spearfishing off a charter boat at Holmes Reef, about 240km east of Cairns in far north Queensland.

He suffered a deep, 30cm tear to his calf muscle and was airlifted by helicopter in a stable condition to the Cairns Base Hospital where he was said to be in "good spirits".

In February this year, a 26-year-old surfer was bitten by a shark at Shelley Beach, also on the NSW north coast.

He suffered cuts to his lower left leg and foot.

In January, an abalone diver working off the NSW south coast was also mauled by a shark in terrifying circumstances.

The three-metre shark closed its mouth over the head and shoulders of the 41-year-old diver, off Cape Howe, south of the fishing port of Eden.

He managed to club the shark's head and eyes with an abalone chisel until it spat him free.

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