Previously thought to be one of Western Australia’s safest swimming spots, Clarke’s Beach in Cape Byron instead bore witness to a gruesome death this morning.
Without any warning this morning, at approximately 10.40am local time, a shark longer than 3 metres swam into the shallow water just off the beach and attacked a local man, thought to be a British man who moved to Australia with his wife several years ago.
Witnesses said the man, named locally as 50 year-old Paul Wilcox, been snorkelling or swimming only 15 to 20 metres from shore when the shark attacked. The shark, thought to be a great white, bit him on the right leg, just above the knee.
Rescuers were able to drag the victim to shore as his horrified wife looked on. Despite desperate efforts on shore to same him, the man had lost too much blood and died on the beach.
Witness Mark Hickey, who waded in to try to rescue the Mr Wilcox, said: “I saw what looked like seaweed but it was blood in the water. The shark came back to him and had another go. I didn’t know it was a person but when I realised I ran out and waded to the bank and grabbed him and did CPR, but it was too late.”
A doctor who was on the beach at the time performed CPR but the Mr Wilcox could not be saved. Witnesses who remained on the beach said that the shark cruised up and down in the shallows for nearly an hour. One local said: “It’s the closest to the shore I’ve ever seen a big shark and I’ve been surfing here for 40 years. I thought I saw [the victim] snorkelling just off the shore about five minutes before the attack.”
There are no plans to try to kill the shark, which lifeguards attempted to scare back into deep water with jet skis, but beaches, after a temporary 24-hour closure, will have their waterways monitored for the time being.