Monday, November 28, 2005

Survivor of shark attack tell story

A TEENAGE surfer has told how he desperately fought for his life to escape a shark which bit his leg in a terrifying attack off the Victorian coast.Tom Burke, 18, furiously punched and kicked the predator after it attacked him while surfing off Flinders, in Western Port Bay, on Friday evening.
He then paddled back to shore, afraid the shark would come after him and too fearful to look at his wounded leg, believing it may have been bitten off.

Recovering at his Mornington home yesterday, the teenager described how the beast, believed to be a 1.8m bronze whaler, repeatedly tried to grab him.

The apprentice carpenter said he was lying on his surfboard waiting for a wave when the shark struck at about 6.15pm.

"I just started feeling really weird, then I saw a big black thing come up. I just got ripped off the board," Mr Burke said.

"I punched it as hard as I could, then I started kicking it. I didn't really have a clue what was going on. It was surreal."

His mate, Simon Chambers, was surfing nearby and initially thought it was a joke.
"He lost his balance and fell off his board and said 'something is biting me' -- we laughed it off," Mr Chambers said.

"But then there was a big splash and the board went flying."

Nearby surfers came to their aid, helping Mr Burke back to shore.

It was only when on land that Mr Burke summoned the courage to examine his injuries.
"I looked down and there was a massive gash on my leg," Mr Burke said.

A photo taken on a mobile phone camera shows two large bite marks on his inner leg.
The Mornington teenager, who was rushed to hospital by Mr Chambers, had 16 stitches in the wound.

Mr Burke, who has a heavily bandaged leg and was restricted to crutches yesterday, had joked about sharks on the way to the beach before his dramatic encounter.

His stunned father, Tom Sr, said his son was yet to realise how lucky he was to escape with his life.

"If it had been really hungry he wouldn't be here now," his father said.

"Fortunately it was 16 stitches, but it could have been a lot worse."

Mr Burke has vowed never to surf again.

Although the surfers believed the predator was a bronze whaler, Melbourne Aquarium aquarist David Donnelly said it may have been a young great white shark.


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