Friday, September 30, 2005

Great white shark attack survivor tells his story

Kingscote resident Josh Berris had a 26th birthday he will never forget last Sunday when he fought off a massive Great White Shark at an isolated surf location near Cape du Couedic on the Island's west coast.

Trying out his brand new wetsuit, a birthday present, and surfing with five other locals, Josh was attacked by the five metre shark shortly before midday at a spot known as 'Rockies', about three kilometres northeast of Admiral's Arch.

"It's all a bit of blur at the moment but I remember the shark grabbing my leg and circling around a couple of times to go me again" Josh told The Islander at the scene on Sunday afternoon.
"I accidentally put my hand in its mouth as I was trying to push away from it, then my surfboard ended up in its jaws," he explained.

"It was dragging me through the water, but I managed to reach down and undo my leg rope and then it was gone."

Josh received lacerations to both his legs and one hand in the attack and has heaped praise on nearby board-rider Lee Carter who risked his own life to drag Josh to safety.

"Special thanks go to Lee for having the guts to fight his instincts and fears and not only stay in the water, but come back out to me and swim me to shore, saving my life," Josh says in a thank you advert in this week's edition.

Close friend Shane Harris, who has been coming to ‘Rockies' for eleven year, was about 50 metres closer to shore when the attack occurred and remembers hearing Josh yelling out "shark".
"I turned around and saw this huge fin behind Josh ... the shark must have been between 14 and 18 feet long, he looked so small in front of it," he said.

"After it let go of his legs it had his leggie (leg rope) in its mouth and was dragging him feet first through the water, but he was able to undo the strap."

"But then it circled around and had another go at him and that's when he cut his hand on its teeth.
"Lee managed to get to him and grab him by the wetsuit and they were washed into the rocks by a wave and we helped them both out of the water.

"We tried to calm him down as best we could and wrapped the wounds with towels and tied leg ropes and shirts around his legs to stop the bleeding, while Nathan and Lewis Dowie ran up to the emergency phone at the cottages to get help.

Shane said he had never seen a shark while surfing at Cape du Couedic, his favourite spot, but knows of other people who have.

"You always think about it when you paddle out here, but after five good waves it goes to the back of your mind.

"Well, that's the end of surfing down here, I'll never get in the water at ‘Coudie' ever again.
‘Rockies' and nearby ‘Spooks' are located adjacent to a large colony of New Zealand fur seals and often surfers are forced to dodge them as they catch the waves.

"Within 10 metres of hitting the water you'll see 50 seals at ‘Rockies' and sometimes we have to force them off the jump-off rock," Damian Berden, a good friend of Josh's who rushed to the scene on Sunday, said.

His parents, Steve and Mel Berris, were very relieved to learn their son's injuries were not life-threatening, travelled to Adelaide on Sunday night to be by Josh's side.

"When Josh said he was going surfing at Cape du Couedic on Sunday we had three different conversations about sharks down there, but never imagined he would be attacked," Mel said
"We are just glad that he came out of it OK and hope it serves as a deterrent to other surfers who might be thinking about going there," she added.

Josh was airlifted by the Adelaide Bank rescue helicopter to the Flinders Medical Centre where he received treatment for the lacerations.


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