Australian surfer killed by shark

 An Australian surfer died after being mauled by a shark Tuesday, the first fatal attack by one of the marine predators in Australian waters in almost two years.

Fellow surfers dragged the man from the water of a Western Australian beach and administered first aid, but the 31-year-old victim never regained consciousness, witnesses told local media.

"We wrapped a jumper around his legs and used a leg rope as a torniquet," surfer Eddie Kilgallon told the Perth Now website after the attack close to the tourist town of Margaret River.

"I was holding what was left of his leg together. The bottom half of his thigh was exposed and ripped open. Half of his calf muscle was also torn to shreds."

Kilgallon said fellow surfers tried to resuscitate and kept talking to the gravely injured man, who had been surfing at South Point break close to Gracetown, some 270 kilometres (165 miles) south of Perth.

"I saw he had a wedding ring and was telling him that his wife wanted to see him again," he said. "His face was white but we started to get colour back into him. That's when I thought he might have a chance."

Gracetown resident Rob Alder, who performed mouth-to-mouth on the victim, said conditions were perfect for surfing and he was watching the waves to decide which break to surf when he saw the man disappear under the water.

"The board was floating by itself in the take-off zone, it looked as if it had been snapped," he told ABC radio.

Alder said he alerted authorities and raced down to the point where he saw the victim on the rocks, already being treated by another surfer.

He said the man was unconscious and had a large gash on his leg which indicated the shark had probably taken an "exploratory nip" after mistaking the man for a seal.

"He hadn't bitten away anything. It was like a nip. There was no sign that the shark had viewed the surfer as a meal," Alder said.

"It was probably an exploratory nip, realised it wasn't a seal, and let go. But that can be fatal."

Cassandra Fisher, who works at a store in Gracetown, said she went down to the beach shortly after the attack and saw that other surfers were still out on the water, trapped by a lack of waves.

"They couldn't get in, there were no waves," Fisher said. "They were literally paddling for their lives. There were seals out there, it (the shark) was probably after them."

Local media said the victim was enjoying a final surf before heading to the Western Australian goldfields mining region where he worked.

The death is the first since December 2008 when a man was attacked by a large shark, believed to be a great white, off the Western Australia coast while snorkelling with his son, according to the Australian Shark Attack File.

It was within one kilometre (mile) of where another surfer died after being attacked by two sharks in July 2004.

Sharks are a common feature of Australian waters but fatal attacks are rare, with only 24 recorded deaths in the 20 years up to June 2009.

"We understand that's a risk we take when we surf," Alder said.

AFP

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