Friends fought to save shark attack victim's life
A MAN who died after being mauled by a shark at Cid Harbour yesterday was on a sailing holiday with friends who fought to save his life before emergency crews arrived.
Queensland Police Mackay District Inspector Steve O'Connell said the 33-year-old Victorian man was one of 10 people on a bareboat charter yacht which had departed Abell Point Marina on Monday morning for a five-day cruise.
Inspector O'Connell said the group of friends were sailing the 40-foot vessel themselves and did not have a skipper or crew present when they anchored in Cid Harbour yesterday afternoon.
The man and a woman had been taking turns to stand-up paddle board and swim in the harbour near Whitsunday Island when the incident occurred, he said.
It is understood the woman got out of the water and onto the paddle board just before the man was attacked, about 5.30pm.
Inspector O'Connell said the species of the shark was unknown, but confirmed a shark had been seen.
Both swimmers were pulled out of the water by French tourists on a nearby vessel who launched a tender to pick up the pair and ferried them 30m to the yacht, anchored further away.
Inspector O'Connell said most of the sailing group had a medical background and at least two were doctors who administered immediate first aid.
"QAS (Queensland Ambulance Service) and the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter were notified, however by the time the helicopter arrived on scene, the man had lost a substantial amount of blood and had entered cardiac arrest,” he said.
"CPR was ongoing for a very long time and every effort was made to save the man's life.”
An RACQ CQ Rescue spokesperson said the man suffered "horrific injuries” to his left thigh and right calf and a defensive injury to his left wrist.
The spokesperson said helicopter crew were unable to make radio contact with the vessel the victim was on, or winch him out in a "complex” operation, further complicated as light faded.
A small tender transported a Critical Care Paramedic and rescue crewman a couple of hundred metres offshore to the yacht the victim had been pulled aboard.
The spokesperson said the man had been resuscitated twice in 45 minutes before being transferred back to shore by tender, accompanied by the paramedic and rescue crewman.
RACQ CQ Rescue crewman Ben McCauley said they arrived at the yacht about three minutes after disembarking the aircraft and described the scene and the man's injuries as "absolutely horrific”.
"He'd suffered very serious bites, significant blood loss as well as cardiac arrest and when we arrived he was already being treated by a paramedic from Hamilton Island, two off-duty doctors and an emergency department nurse from other nearby vessels.”
Mr McCauley said there were about 20 boats in Cid Harbour at the time of the attack.
He described the third shark attack he had attended in less than two months as "just totally unbelievable” and "the worst one yet”.
"There was so much blood and it was one of the worst jobs I've been to. It really hits home when you can't go home to your friends and family and say you've saved another life,” he said.
On arrival at Mackay Base Hospital about 8pm, the man went into further cardiac arrest as a result of his injuries and died shortly after.
Inspector O'Connell said the man's friends who are on Hamilton Island were "extremely distraught”.
"His injuries and his reaction to those injuries were so severe that unfortunately he (did) not survive shortly after his arrival at Mackay Base Hospital,” he said.
Cumberland Charter Yachts general manager Sharon McNally said the man was among a group that travelled on one of its vessels.
"Cumberland Charter Yachts (CCY) is shocked and saddened by last night's shark attack in Cid Harbour,” she said in a statement.
"On behalf of everyone at Cumberland Charter Yachts, I offer my deepest sympathies to the man's family and friends at this tragic time.
"Members of staff from CCY were involved in the response.
"I am grateful for the remarkable and rapid actions of the crew on board, the medical unit from the RACQ (CQ) Rescue Helicopter, other emergency services and members of the public who worked to try and save the man's life.
"We remain in contact with the group aboard the vessel at the time of the incident and continue to provide support to the guests at this very difficult time.”
Ms McNally said the company continued to remind all boat operators and their guests not to swim at dawn or dusk, not to swim in murky water and not to swim in Cid Harbour at any time.
Meanwhile, Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Tash Wheeler said bareboating was an experience where guests skippered their own charter vessel.
"Whitsundays bareboat operators have stringent safety measures in place including a thorough pre-departure briefing which highlights local area safety briefings and swimming and snorkelling safety,” she said.
A collective group including Queensland Police, Whitsunday Water Police, Boating and Fisheries Control and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will be present on the water today in the Cid Harbour area.
Inspector O'Connell said the presence was a "safety strategy” intended to warn people of issues in the area and provide messaging to anyone who may not be aware of what happened yesterday and in September.
The attack comes after Tasmanian woman Justine Barwick was bitten by a shark in Cid Harbour on September 19 and 12-year-old Victorian Hannah Papps was bitten less than 24 hours later in the same area.
Whitsunday Police are interviewing witnesses and will prepare a report for the Coroner.