Search for teen continues

2012-12-27 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — Eastern Cape emergency services yesterday continued to search for a 15-year-old who was dragged underwater by a shark at Port St Johns on Christmas Day.

Captain John Fobian, of the police emergency management unit, said there were a lot of sharks off the coast at Port St Johns.

Members of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) were called to the beach at about 2.30 pm after lifeguards saw a shark’s fin in the water at Second Beach.

John Costello, of the NSRI in Port St Johns, said the lifeguards immediately called swimmers out of the water, but could not get everyone out in time.

Hundreds of people were bathing when the boy was dragged underwater.

The NSRI has not yet found any sign of his body.

Fobian said witnesses’ descriptions of the shark pointed to it being a great white, but the institute had been unable to confirm this.

Costello said it was the second shark attack this year in the area, and that a shark attack was also recorded in December 2011.

“What makes First, Second and Third Beach so dangerous is their inaccessibility,” said Costello.

“It is very difficult for any emergency services to get there quickly. And for the best treatment in such cases, the patients have to be transported to East London or Durban.”

Lloyd Edwards, of the sea tours company Raggy Charters in Port Elizabeth, said a great white shark was likely responsible for the attack.

“The coast in that area attracts a lot of young great white sharks this time of the year.”

Edwards said another possible culprit was a Zambesi shark, which also hunts in the area because it prefers murky water.

“A number of these sharks are currently spotted near the coast because they prey on smaller fish, especially hammerhead sharks.”

Police divers, officials and other emergency services will today continue the search for the body of the teenager, whose name has not yet been made public.

Fobian said the search was made difficult by poor visibility in the water and many rocks near the water’s surface.

“The chances are good that the boy was dragged underneath rocks and is still stuck there. Our search continues and other officials will patrol the coastline should his body wash up somewhere.”

Similar searches are taking place after five drownings in the Eastern Cape in December.

Fobian said official number of drownings in South Africa in December stood at 47 for both sea and inland. He warned that this number could increase if the missing bodies were found.

Tips: learn to spot sharks

JOHN Fobian gave the following advice for bathers to spot shark activity:

• Sharks are often followed by groups of sea birds that scavenge on the shark’s leftovers. They can be seen from a distance.

• Watch the sea for any fins and avoid murky water, because sharks like to hunt in water with low visibility.

• Be careful near warm sea currents, because these also attract sharks.

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