A woman has been seriously injured in a horrific shark attack in Sydney Harbour this evening. The victim, identified as local resident and keen kayaker Lauren O’Neill, was swimming at Elizabeth Bay when she was set upon by what is believed to be a bull shark.
Heroic Efforts From Nearby Boaters And Medical Staff
Ms O’Neill was pulled from the water by quick-thinking bystanders just minutes after the attack. Reports say the 35-year-old was bleeding heavily from severe injuries to her leg as heroic efforts were made to stem the blood flow before paramedics arrived.
A passing veterinarian, Dr James Taylor, was one of the first on scene. He used his own shirt to make a life-saving tourniquet above the area where the shark had mauled her upper right thigh.
“I just did what anyone would have done. We got her out of the water as fast as we could and focused on stopping the bleeding. She’s a very brave woman and I’m just glad we were able to help,” Dr Taylor told media this morning.
The vet, along with several other witnesses including a retired naval officer, is being credited with saving Ms O’Neill’s life through their fast response and first aid in the crucial minutes after the attack.
Extensive Injuries And Ongoing Treatment
Ms O’Neill was rushed to the nearby Royal Prince Albert Hospital suffering serious lacerations to her right leg. She underwent emergency surgery last night and remains in a stable condition in ICU.
Hospital authorities described her injuries as “traumatic” and say she will require ongoing treatment and rehabilitation. It is not yet known if she will lose part or all of her leg due to the extent of the bite.
First Harbour Shark Attack In Nearly 60 Years
Incredibly, this is the first shark attack in Sydney Harbour since 1963. Experts have expressed surprise at a large shark venturing right into the busy waters alongside the city.
However, shark ecologist Dr Phoebe Meagher said it is possible the shark followed schools of fish through the harbour heads yesterday while chasing a feed.
“It’s quite unusual but not impossible. We know bull sharks in particular will range quite a distance into freshwater systems in search of food,” Dr Meagher said.
“This animal possibly became confused and agitated amongst all the stimuli of a busy harbour and attacked the first thing it saw thrashing in the water.”
Ongoing Threat Or Freak Occurrence?
There are now serious questions over whether harbour swimming areas could still pose an ongoing risk to the public.
Popular beaches including Camp Cove, Murray Rose Pool and Dawn Fraser Baths sit close to Elizabeth Bay and locals are worried there could be another shark lurking nearby.
Randwick Mayor Dylan Parker attempted to allay those fears while praising the efforts of those involved in last night’s response. “This appears to be a rare and tragic coincidence rather than an indication that shark attacks are set to become more common for our area,” he said after visiting Ms O’Neill in hospital this morning.
“I want to assure people we are working closely with all agencies including the Department of Primary Industries to monitor shark activity around the harbour. We have had swimmers back in the water this morning with additional lifesavers on duty, however I urge everyone to follow safe behaviours and be shark smart.”
How To Stay Safe From Shark Attacks
- Avoid swimming at dawn, dusk or night time when sharks are most active
- Do not swim near schools of fish or areas where birds are diving
- Leave the water quickly and calmly if you sight a shark
- Do not provoke or harass a shark if you see one while in the water
- Use only reputable commercial charter boats if taking part in activities such as cage diving.
Shark Attack Statistics For Australia
Shark attack numbers in Australia have gradually risen in line with population growth and the increasing popularity of ocean swimming and water sports. On average there are 16 shark attacks each year with a fatality occurring once every two years.
This will be an evolving story over the next 24 hours as more details are confirmed about Ms O’Neill’s condition. Police divers and drone operators will work today to try and locate the shark responsible for the horrific attack.
There will be ongoing warnings issued to harbour users while the possibility of further danger remains. We will have updates on any changes to operating hours for beaches and swimming enclosures.
Experts warn summer heatwaves draw sharks closer to shore so don’t be complacent – be shark smart this season and always choose patrolled locations.
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