Monday, July 31, 2006

Survivor of shark attack tells his story!

The Ulster diver who survived a shark attack in Western Australia says he still gets scared when he sees sharks on TV.

Six months after his terrifying ordeal and Brian (Bernie) Williams, whose family emigrated from Ulster 30 years ago, finds wildlife programmes bring those spine-chilling moments flooding back.
Amazingly, Brian suffered only lacerations when the 3.5 metre Great White shark bit into his left arm, dragged him through the water and tried to take a second bite.

The 46-year-old electrician had to wrench his arm free and flee to a seabed crevice until he was rescued.

Since then, Perth's winter weather conditions have prevented the father-of-three from diving to date, but when he does get back in next summer Brian says he will definitely be "looking over his shoulder".

He said: "I had to stay out of the water for about eight weeks just because of bandages and everything else. I went for a bit of a swim, but it was sort of towards the end of summer over here and the weather goes a bit foul and the water gets a bit churned up so it wasn't for very long. The weather really hasn't been pleasant enough to go out and dive so it will probably be next summer before I am back in.

"I wouldn't say I was confident of going back. It's probably still going to be a bit hairy for a while. I'll definitely be looking over my shoulder. I hope there are no issues there, but it's like everything else, if I'm just not comfortable or it starts to get a bit worrying then maybe I'll have to take up golf or something like that."

Asked by the Belfast Telegraph if he still suffers nightmares, Brian said: "Not so much nightmares, but every time we watch one of those wildlife programmes and see the sharks swimming around it brings back a few memories."

In the months following the traumatic attack Brian has had plastic surgery on his wound, but has not needed further treatment for the past month.

He recalled: "It's teeth slid up the side of the bone, chipped the bone and just missed the artery and the nerve buckle but it's gone in quite deep. So I've got a scar about 100mm or 4ins long - very surgical, very clean cut. It went straight in and luckily when I pulled my arm out it came straight out. It chipped a little bit of the bone.

"Like I said, luckily it missed most of the nerve buckles so there was no permanent damage. The arm itself round the scarring is still pretty numb, but I've been told that the feeling will come back over a number of years.

"Infection, apparently, is quite common on these things and also the impact which forces the water into the wound can cause a bit of grief, so they kept me in hospital for a while just to make sure there wasn't any bleeding.

"Over about two or three months I had to go back reasonably often just for them to have a look at me and make sure nothing was causing me any problems, but bar being very sore it wasn't really incapacitating.

"The only thing now they are telling me is that there is always a possibility there may be a bit of damage or a bit of a patch that may raise its head. They told me if there are any issues to go back, but probably the last time I went back would be at least a month ago and they sort of signed everything off and said 'yes it's fine, just keep an eye on it'. Hopefully everything will just fix itself up."

Brian was back at work within a fortnight and in the six months since his shocking attack he has become something of a local celebrity.

He added: "The old 15 minutes of fame certainly was going there for a while.

"The electrical company I work for have a section of it like a sheet metal form shop and every now and then they seem obligated to stick up a set of sharks teeth.

"I have had a few shark toys sent to me, but it's all in good humour.

"People you don't see that often always ask you how you've recovered and for a while there it was fairly intense, but after about four or five weeks it seemed to have died a natural death.

"At this stage it is more on the novelty side of things and it is a good story to tell the kids.

"With all the articles and all the newspapers my wife got plenty of cuttings. She took plenty off the net and every now and then, if I need a reminder, it's just a matter of flicking through all those. It's something to show the kids. Although they all know what happened, I think they were too young to realise the impact."


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