Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Swimmer ignored siren and had a close encounter with great white shark

It was reminiscent of a scene from the 1980s movie Jaws, when a Durban man swimming at Fish Hoek beach yesterday came within a fin's length of being attacked by a Great White Shark.A British couple, who saw the incident from the shore, said the swimmer had ignored a siren alerting bathers about the lurking predator, thinking it was the sound of a train.Mary Crossley said it was quite hot and the beach was packed.

"The siren went off four times and everyone was out of the water. "He was far out to sea and beyond the buoy when the alarms went off . He thought it was a train's siren and ignored the warning. There were no lifeguards at the beach. "A shark-spotter said the shark was moving closer to the man. It was a matter of seconds and he would have been another statistic." Crossley said a group of fishermen saved the day when they launched their boat and went to save the swimmer.

"With the shark metres away, they manoeuvred the boat between him and the shark. They managed to pluck him out of the water just in time. The man is very lucky to be alive and everyone on the beach applauded the fishermen for saving him," she said. Crossley said tourists were not aware of the siren and the possible danger of sharks.

"Lifeguards are here only over weekends. The spotter told him through the two-way radio that he was a very lucky man because the shark came within a metre of him." Her husband, Paul Crossley, said more funding was needed for additional resources such as lifeguards."It is a tourist beach and that may help," he said.Last year the city council gave R400 000 to two shark-spotting programmes that have been operating in Fish Hoek and Muizenberg.

Greg Oelofse, policy and research co-ordinator for environmental planning, who helped start the programmes, was unaware of yesterday's incident. "That information has not come to me yet. But this means that the plan we have does work but some people don't know about it," said Oelofse.

Metro police spokesman Kevin Maxwell confirmed the incident: "If the shark alarm is sounded it is the duty of our personnel to get everyone out of the water and prevent anyone from entering. There was an alarm and there was a shark circling a tourist. Our staff managed to get other people out. Fortunately, no one was hurt."


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