Witness tells of shark's relentless attack

2012-04-19 22:35

Cape Town - A witness on Thursday told of how a "massive" shark, presumed to be a Great White, relentlessly attacked a young man before eventually biting off his right leg.

The bodyboarder, 20-year-old David Lilienfeld, died from his injuries, after the attack near Kogel Bay in Cape Town.

Matt Marais, who regularly surfs at the spot "Caves", was out enjoying a "really fun surf" with his dad and a friend, unaware of the tragedy that was about to unfold.

He had seen two younger bodyboarders - Lilienfeld and his younger brother - before sitting on the beach to call his wife to tell her that he was running late.

"I saw a huge dorsal fin of a shark surface near to the two bodyboarders, and close in on them.

"My wife answered and I just told her to call the police, call the ambulance, there's a shark attack happening right now," Marais told ZigZag magazine.

Marais said Lilienfeld tried to to fight off the shark by pushing his bodyboard between himself and the massive predator, but it was relentless.

"The shark kept coming back, a second and I think a third time, before it got his leg. It was like someone pushed a button to turn the sea from a clear blue to dark red, that's how quickly he was losing blood from the wound," he said.

Marais said he called "anyone he could think of to try and get someone over as quickly as possible to come and assist with medical help".

"I think it took about 8 minutes to get the young bodyboarder to shore, but you could already tell by that time that he'd lost a lot of blood."

A horror show

Marais said that the shark was a "conservative" 3m long, but could easily have been bigger, it was "massive".

"The shark also hung around in the bay for a long time after the attack, just patrolling the bay in very shallow water, sometimes not even 50m from the shore,"

Marais told ZigZag that he has been surfing at Kogel Bay for 19 years, but "something just doesn't feel right there anymore"

"I've got a feeling I am going to regret coming down to the beach for this surf for a long time. The visual memory of the bodyboarder being attacked is going to be stuck in the back of my mind and although I've often surfed Caves alone, I don't think I will be doing that anymore. At least for a long time to come"

"It was a horror show. It looked like something from the Jaws movie."

Marais lamented the role humans play in shark attacks.

"This is my personal opinion, but I feel we are interfering way too much with the great whites, with chumming the waters and cage diving etc, and that this may be causing the sharks to behave unnaturally."

  • stef.terblanche - 2012-04-19 23:14

    This is so tragic - David was a friend of my sons, who also surf and dive. And I could not agree more with Matt Marais that chumming and cage diving is part of the problem. Of course there are certain scientists who will back the cage diving operators because the latter sponsor their research, let them operate from their boats etc. Great whites are protected causing their numbers to increase while their natural food sources are becoming scarcer, at the same time they are being conditioned to associate food with humans - the math is so simple. I am a diver myself and I have noticed the increase in sharks and the changes in their behaviour under water. My sincere condolences to David's family.

      Jason - 2012-04-20 06:26

      @Stef I strongly disagree. SharkMen used 24kg of chum and had been out the area for 3 days. Since White pointers were protected their numbers have increased. There are more people using the ocean for various sports, this I believe is the main reason for the increase in attacks. Also bare in mind that the western cape was put under a shark alert warning because of Shark men's activity. Enter at your own risk.

      Gigo - 2012-04-20 08:05

      Please Janine remove them..

      Imraan - 2012-04-20 09:01

      @Stef.Terblanche, I agree with you 100%. Sharks have become conditioned to associate humans and boats to food. I am a deep sea fiserman and it has become a common sight to see sharks swim upto the boat and wait just beneath it and everytime you a reel up a fish it becomes shark food.

      Jacqui - 2012-04-20 12:33

      Couldn't it be that commercial fishing should also shoulder some of the blame?.

      sachasea - 2012-04-20 21:42

      Stef, while I agree with you that the Great white shark's food sources are dwindling I have to disagree with you about their numbers increasing especially at any significant rate. A Great white shark lives on average for 25 years and only breeds for the final fifth of it's entire lifespan. Females give birth to 2 to 14 live pups and may only produce 4 to 6 litters in a lifetime. The survival rate of the pups reaching adulthood is very low. The gestation period is not known, but may be more than a year. There are estimated to be only about 10 000 Great white sharks in the world's oceans, not many at all considering how much space the vast deep blue occupies! So it's easy to see why they need man's protection to survive. Remember that sharks are one of the oldest animals in the world in terms of how long their kind have held a presence on this planet. They are largely what is known as an apex predator, which means that their numbers are mostly limited by the abundance of their prey not usually by something else preying on them, although Killer whales/Orcas are an exception to the rule. Reference:

      sachasea - 2012-04-20 23:16

      Sharks always seem to be taking the rap as man-eating villains –- in the media, movies and books. So let’s get a little perspective. Your chances of being attacked by a shark are just one in 11.5 million, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. On average, there are about 65 shark attacks worldwide each year; a handful are fatal. You are more likely to be killed by a dog, snake or in a car collision with a deer. You’re also 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning and three times more likely to drown at the beach than die from a shark attack, according to ISAF.

  • kaszaymatsepe - 2012-04-19 23:21

    Shark nets should be put up and chumming should seriously be banded! The number of shark attacks are rising quickly. As one can clearly read that the behaviour of the shark is odd. For the safety of surfers and swimmers action to keep the sharks away has to be done. As much as its their ocean and home its us, as the peoples too. Really tragic death. RIP.

      carpejugulim - 2012-04-20 06:41

      Respect the animal in its own environment. If we were meant to be in the water all the time we would have been born with fins and gills. The beware of Sharks warning had already been broadcast and they still chose to go in the water. What happened was tragic but preventable.

      Gustav - 2012-04-20 07:55

      @kaszaymatsepe; Do you know how many animals (dolhpins, turtles, etc) are killed by shark nets every year? What gives you the right to go into another's home and restrict their movements and kill them just so that you can have a good time. Sharks do what sharks do in their natural habitat. If you cant accept the risk or the consequences then dont go into the sea.

      Gustav - 2012-04-20 07:55

      @kaszaymatsepe; Do you know how many animals (dolhpins, turtles, etc) are killed by shark nets every year? What gives you the right to go into another's home and restrict their movements and kill them just so that you can have a good time. Sharks do what sharks do in their natural habitat. If you cant accept the risk or the consequences then dont go into the sea.

      Samantha - 2012-04-20 09:53

      I really wish more people would do some research before calling for something like this- Shark nets kill not only sharks but thousands of dolphins, turtles and fish each year- think about that for a minute- If you want to swim, do it in areas designated for just that- I am sure you dont like someone coming into your property and disturbing it right? its the same for the ocean and jungles alike- Humans keep interfering with the natural habitat of the animals and then blame the animals for retaliating(sp)- they go into the game parks etc and get bitten by a lion, then want to kill the lion- same with these sharks-

      jbrandct - 2012-04-20 10:44

      Thank you carpejugulim, and if we were meant to fly we would have been born with wings. Or if we were meant to go 120km/h on freeways we would have been born with an engine and wheels. Everything has risks, we surfers do respect the animal, we do understand the risk, but you also take a risk when you get into a car or unto a plane, which incidently have much higher accident rates than the odd shark attack.

      Jacqui - 2012-04-20 12:36

      Kaszaymatesepe have you any idea what harm shark nets cause?. No you are wrong, the ocean isn't the people's home, they have nothing to do there.

      sally.fryer1 - 2012-04-20 23:02

      No, the sea is not home to people: it is the shark's domain.

  • cosmos.ndebele - 2012-04-19 23:39

    In the sea, Sharks are looking for food & we all know that!!! Pity the youngman got killed. I think its a warning for these kids to extra vigilant.

      herman.gambit - 2012-04-19 23:47

      hectic, rip David

  • Wayne - 2012-04-19 23:50

    I personally don't think chumming is the cause of increased attacks, we live in West Australia and have had 8 attacks in the last 3 years and 6 of them in the last year and no one has been chumming, fair enough we don't use shark nets. Maybe the commercial boats with there km of nets are depleting the fish stocks or the waste been pumped out to sea may be attracting them who knows. What happens when a dead whale drifts around ? That's a large amount of chum, does that cause a rise in attacks? There seems to be a underlying problem, maybe man has upset the balance

      Phillip van Niekerk - 2012-04-20 08:03


      Daniel - 2012-04-20 08:06

      The major concern with chumming is the pavlov's dog effect... sharks are believed to be moderately intelligent so when they learn to associate chummed water with people, they start to associate people with food. I agree that people have a responsibility to adhere to the shark alerts... but at the same time that doesn't give tour operators carte blanche in chumming the waters. Its ironic and cynical to shift the blame onto the shark numbers and then go cash out your cheque from shark activity. Wayne , when there is a whale floating around, there are usually no people there.

  • louwc - 2012-04-19 23:51

    condolences, so sad

  • tyroymike3 - 2012-04-20 00:42

    Very sad but all ocean visitors know the risks of entering the territory of a perfect killing machine. The total abuse of the natural resources of the sea by commercial fishing interests have forced these creatures to seek new prey , pure survival . Chumming and shark cage diving is of minimal influence - our coastal waters are becoming a desert , ask any shore fisherman and analyse the catches in the last 30 years . We are consuming ourselves with out greed and lack of conscious behaviour regarding the environment . Pollution and population growth will create all kinds of new phenomena - RIP

  • Jabulani - 2012-04-20 01:12

    May he RestInPeace. Pls surfers don't ever go back there again. Don't let history to repeat itself.

  • Florence - 2012-04-20 02:24

    I do think that the chum played a role here. RIP...

  • brionyl.french - 2012-04-20 06:06

    So tragic... We need to look into this...

  • Mikael - 2012-04-20 07:02

    Sharks are everywhere, it goes with the surf, but the vibe at Caves has always been one of man and beast sharing an awesome environment in harmony. Yesterday something went very bad. This shark didn't just 'nibble' it came back again and again - it was mad as hell and it wanted to kill. Guys who share their free time in the water with these creatures know the risks, but they also know that such behaviour is not normal. Not normal at all. A triple attack on a helpless wounded human in relatively shallow water is almost unheard of. This killing will not be forgotten - somebody will have to pay for this carnage. The TV Company that are currently guests in our country have a great deal to answer for. The so-called 'observers' should be hounded by the media until they produce documented evidence about the exact volume of 'chum' they recorded as part of their monitoring responsibilities onboard the research vessel. In the meantime the research project itself needs to come clean about who exactly was funding this multi- million dollar 'experiment'. What is the real story here ??? We need to ask the question how and why they were they ever granted a permit to operate in our beautiful waters in the first place ??? Meanwhile a family is grieving - let us not forget them

      Mikael - 2012-04-20 08:40

      Chum is minced up meat, bone and blood; essentially abbatoir waste that can be bought for next to nothing - five bucks a kilo tops. When thrown from a boat it moves away with the current, when sharks find it they work their way back to the source (the boat) where the cameras are waiting for the close-ups. From then on its anyone's guess, these so-called 'observers' should be made to tell what happens. Ostensibly the sharks are then captured, tagged and released. Sharks have incredibly sensitive skin and they don'f like the feel of the tag, and the battery that powers it. Research has shown that they will then swim away for dozens of miles, possibly in a desperate bid to shake the thing off. Truth is, nobody can explain why they do this. What they don't appear to do is accept their new electronic hardware as if nothing had happened. What theese 'so-called' scientists are then following is not a great white doing essentially great white thing, its an angry creature behaving abnormally with a man-made lump of metal on its back.

      Jason - 2012-04-20 08:42

      Dude - Fisherman shoot seals all the time, every single day. A seal is one monster chum.

      Anthony - 2012-04-20 09:10

      @Mikael what you are saying makes no sense at all. Before you sprout your uninformed garbage again do some research. Contact the Natal Sharks Board, who have records of all the shark attacks that have happened on the SA coast for the past 100 years or so. Although most attacks are limited to a single bite, there are numerous occurrences dating back many years where the shark has actually come back to feed off the human body and devoured the body and is not a new unnatural trend. This is as a result of hunger and opportunistic feeding not anger and not unusual. Sharks just any predator need to eat and humans just need to accept that at times and in certain environments we are part of the food chain and at times not the top of the chain as we so stupidly believe.

      Mikael - 2012-04-20 09:43

      What's your point six-pack ? Read my post: "A triple attack on a helpless wounded human in relatively shallow water is almost unheard of." Which one of these words don't you understand ???

      Robin - 2012-04-20 12:45

      While I don't disagree with most of what you write perhaps a clearer picture of the background can be read at

      Anthony - 2012-04-20 14:00

      Mikael. The point am trying to make is that this shark was doing what sharks naturally do. They bite potential prey with the intent of eating to stay alive. It did not know that it was a helpless wounded human - it sensed a meal. Your point that it was mad as hell and wanted to kill is a human behavior not normally associated with animals. Fight or flight is a basic animal instinct when cornered, which is clearly not the case here. So predation is the only logical answer here. As for you comment regarding the water depth, please go and visit the following link to see in which depth most shark attacks occur. In fact read all the stats you might be surprised. Main point - stop attempting to do the typical SA thing of looking to blame somebody and accept that this was a tragic incident of a human and a large predator meeting in the predator's environment. Chumming may have caused a temporary larger concentration of sharks in the short term but all sharks will return to their natural food sources again when they need to feed. It does appear that people where warned about the chumming and larger shark numbers so the only blame needs to go to the people themselves who ignored these warning and still insisted in going into the water.

      Robin - 2012-04-20 15:43

      @Anthony. Absolutely right all down the line - at last somebody who knows what he's writing about. Bravo!

      Robin - 2012-04-20 16:09

      Come on Mikael - have you not read about how some sharks have actually beached themselves in attempting to get their (human) prey? Have you not read the accounts of shark attacks in knee-depth water? Do a little research please.

  • Melissa - 2012-04-20 07:03

    Really so horrible....RIP David....but I do agree with the comments made about us humans interfering too much with's not natural and I strongly believe it will alter their behaviour.....and not only sharks, any wild animal should be left to be just that....a wild animal....untouched by humans and certainly not used to make money....I send my condolences to all David's close friends and family.

  • themba.ntuli - 2012-04-20 07:12

    Its a sad story, but people must just not expect that they will be some horatio caine who will hunt down the culprit and brim him to justice. we live in the biosphere and nature does its work predators must hunt track kill and eat their prey this is how things are balanced the human prey was in a wrong place at the wrong time then someone seized the opportunity by having a meal, this is just how wild animals work dont be emotional someone may just break into your house for survival.

  • Virginia - 2012-04-20 07:41

    Very very sad, add my condolences to the family and friends as well. I do fully agree with Matt Marais though. Stop chumming and cage diving - yes some greedy people will disagree because it will mean they have to go back to the real world and earn an honest days work for a change!!! It's been far too much fun taking money while having fun and to hell with the results of it which they will obviously deny!

  • Mary - 2012-04-20 07:49

    My sincere condolences to David's family and friends. With reference to the article, however, shouldn't a journalist know the difference between 'presume' and 'assume'?

  • Niki - 2012-04-20 07:50

    A tragic event, and I feel deeply for the young man's family. We should, however, remember that we enter the territory of these predators at our own risk. Overfishing the oceans probably does more to encourage "unnatural" behaviour in sharks than chumming: It seems like this was a large, hungry animal out there looking for a meal, and not finding one further from the shore.

      Phillip van Niekerk - 2012-04-20 07:55

      I agree, fishing Quotas should be Tightened ASAP.

  • William - 2012-04-20 08:27

    Sad, but no scientific evidence to suggest chumming is directly related to increased shark attacks. Yes the operators chum to attract the sharks, and there will of course be increased activity SPECIFICALLY around the boats where they chum, but all attacks in Muizenberg/Fish Hoek and now in Cool Bay have not been in the facinity of chumming. Sharks are naturally curious and are prevalent in False Bay. Lets prevent conclusive evidence then we can act accordingly.

  • Tian - 2012-04-20 08:28

    If I was a shark and a human attach a satellite tracking device to my fins or taunt me with chum, I would also attack them.

  • Ian - 2012-04-20 08:39

    I am sorry for the surfer and condolences to his familya nd friends but the great white is a marvel of engineering, it is the perfect killing machine, it eats, makes babies and moves on as Richard Dreyfuss put it in 1976, anyone here who knows there movies will know what I'm talking about, movies or not this is what these magnificent creatures do, when we venture into the ocean we are in there domain

  • dherbig - 2012-04-20 08:50

    I fully agree with the last part of this story. Humans need to stop interfering!

  • Honey - 2012-04-20 09:06

    So sorry , will pray for his family. It is the same as taking a nice big pease of meat , go to the nature reserve and call the big cats, and stand by to watch them eat. You might just look jummy to them !! That is what chumming is doing to the sharks. Stop it!!! It is unnatural!!! Leave nature alone!!!

  • Jane - 2012-04-20 09:06

    While I totally 110% agree with the STOP KONY campaign, please guys this is not the forum, lets show some respect to the young man who died, and lets stick to the topic.

  • Andy - 2012-04-20 09:18

    @jasoneye According to the press release I read by Dr Dirk Schmidt 24kgs of chum is used everyday for shark cage diving... But Shark Men used 5 TONS! If that is true that makes a huge difference! RIP David. You went out fighting like a warrior. A brave young man. I salute you brother. My condolences to your family and friends.

  • siyadyosiba - 2012-04-20 09:35

    So sad. RIP young man. I hope all those who eye witnessed this tragidy get better soon. It must be a horrifying sight to see a human being ripped off by a shark. I watch national geographic channel and like to see dangerous animals attack prey but the sight of an attack to a human is very difficult to stand.

  • Paul - 2012-04-20 09:56

    Condolences to the family and friends-so tragic. I surf Koel bay often and I must mention that False Bay is the breeding ground of great whites. Fact! Chumming is an issue but less likely the cause. Surfing is a risk, like driving, even cycling. Each risk tends to have a reward and for the last 20 odd years this man took that risk (knowing the consequences). If anything its bad timing and unlucky. No one is to blame but Mother Nature! We all continue to drive when we fear accidents; some of us smoke even though we know we can get cancer and we all fall asleep hoping to wake up. 1 shark attack in a month yet 100 car accidents a week- Should we ban cars??? David RIP you left us doing what you love most!

  • AntonBvanWyk - 2012-04-20 10:28

    It is very sad to hear about this attack, RIP David our thoughts and prayers are with the family. I will add being a surfer but not surfing anymore that Surfers and especially body borders look like seal's when you lie on your board especially body boarders as they wear fins on their feet. So to a Shark that looks like food and will attack it. I do agree no Shark nets it will kill more, other sea life than keep Sharks out, but we don't have the right to change their natural environment at all. Best is rather to stay out of the water, make sure to not ignore Shark warnings, as you take your own life in your hands when you enter the ocean.

  • Eric - 2012-04-20 10:46

    It is so sad to see a young life lost in this way.We enter the bush at our own risk to various wild animals. we enter the sea the same way. I would like to see the sharks get tagged so that one can track whether the attacks are from the same shark (a marauder) or from various. Seal island is full of seals but I have to ask if the engines of the boats around there actually chase the sharks away and they go look for food somewhere else.

  • Ian - 2012-04-20 11:15

    I se ethe subject of chumming is being discussed, one thing I can tell you, a great white can smell a drop of blood in the water from miles away so it dosent matter how much chum was used, and for mr nat geo not to take responsibility is plain sick, the man is at fault and him and his team know it, why dont they go chum off venice beach if he want to attarct sharks so much

  • Terry - 2012-04-20 11:18

    I totally agree with the comment regarding humans interfering with sharks too much. The sea is their home and we are just visitors! We should respect them.

  • Pete - 2012-04-20 11:43

    its very simple.the sea belongs to the fish. enter at your own risk

  • Bernice - 2012-04-20 12:08

    This is a very sad story. When are the people that do the chumming going to learn that the natural order of how nature works is being disturbed to such an extent that nothing is natural anymore.

  • richardcranna - 2012-04-20 12:30


  • Jacqui - 2012-04-20 12:31

    Some pretty gruesome sensationalism by News 24 here. No less than four articles about the shark attack. One wonders why, maybe news is slow.

  • Michelle - 2012-04-20 12:36

    Surely it is the responsibility of permit-issuers to inform the public of unusual chumming and have beaches declared dangerous or closed during such periods? A difficult thing to police, but at least the public would be informed. RIP David. Condolences to family and friends.

  • Darryl - 2012-04-20 14:04

    This chumming must stop !

  • gbestenbier1 - 2012-04-20 15:10

    All the marine experts agree: sharks are patrolling these areas for FOOD..i.e. the Seals !!These seals who comes closer to the beach to catch the small fish.Its not human inteference which causes the attacks.Also hundeds of birds were diving there, which was a sure sign of feeding underwater.The sad thing is , more inteprid young people will be maimed or killed by these predators.

  • Gerard - 2012-04-20 15:37

    My thoughts go out to David his brother and family during this sad time in there family history....I did not know David but as a fellow waterman...God's speed in dealing with this tragedy...My next wave I catch will be in memory of David...

  • treatwell - 2012-04-20 16:23

    People should stop trespassing in shark territory, this is not a shark attack sharks are predators and will eat anything, u never hear a shark attacking humans on land cos sharks are meant to be In the ocean and humans on land

  • Cheryl - 2012-04-20 16:26

    The ocean belongs to all those who live in it. You charge people for trespassing, so why deprive the sea animals of their own habitat. Shark men are only trying to help. Sorry someone had to die, but it was not the sharks fault or the Shark Men crew. Do you see people banning the president for not keeping to his word. How much more rapes and murders happen so often and no one gives two cents worth.

  • Amanda Barratt - 2012-04-20 16:44

  • flysouth - 2012-04-20 17:32

    I wonder how stupid - or venal and unconcerned - you need to be to claim that throwing blood and guts into the water to attract sharks does not lead to this kind of attack? Why is the question even debated?

  • Pierre - 2012-04-20 20:04

    I think it is high time we start exporting shark meat, white shark meat. There are lots of hungry people in the world!!!

  • gustav.swanepoel1 - 2012-04-21 13:33

    And what precisely were u expecting? That if u got into its territory, that it wouldnt defend it?

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