Shark savages man

2013-10-12 00:00

JEFFREY’S BAY — An eyewitness at Jeffrey’s Bay told how he hit a five-metre great white shark with his canoe paddle to chase it from the body of swimmer Burgert van der Westhuizen (74) yesterday.

“I was paddling out to sea when I heard screams that someone had been attacked by a shark. I turned back to help,” Terry Olivier (64) said, standing on Point beach in the small Eastern Cape surfing town.

Other witnesses said the attack was typical of a great white. The sharks attack from below and then leap in the air, before dragging their prey under.

Olivier said Van der Westhuizen’s body was mutilated.

“I started hitting the shark with my paddle. When I tried to get the man’s torso out of the water, the shark came and took another bite out of it.”

This happened five times, before the shark began to circle Olivier’s canoe.

“I really wanted to help the man, but it was already too late. Then I had to get away before the shark got me as well,” he said.

Rieghard van Rensburg, commander of the local National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) station, said they were called to a drowning at about 11.30 am, but quickly realised it was a shark attack.

Town residents and surfers were shocked at the presence of the feared predator and all local beaches were closed until the NSRI could ascertain their safety.

Van der Westhuizen was a well-known open water swimmer in the town. His friends flooded his Facebook page with messages expressing their shock at his death yesterday.

A friend, Brenton Williams, said the swimmers were cautious and avoided the water if the presence of sea birds and dolphins indicated sharks might be around, feeding.

“But there was no indication [yesterday], it was so unusual and unexpected.”

Eastern Cape shark expert Malcolm Smale of the Bayworld Oceanarium in Port Elizabeth, said he could not remember another fatal shark attack in the province, aside from Port St Johns, where there have been several.

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