Sunday, May 20, 2007

Helicopter pilot saves five surfers from great white shark

Five people had a close encounter with a great white shark while surfing at Robberg beach in Plettenberg Bay on Wednesday, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said. NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said the 3,5m shark was spotted by a local resident, Glen Brown, who had been flying a honeymoon couple and another passenger over the beach in his Robertson 44 helicopter.

When Brown saw the shark moving closer to the five who were surfing about 50m off shore, he flew down his helicopter to try to warn the surfers of the shark's presence, said Lambinon.Upon realising that the shark was less then 5m away from two of the surfers, Brown flew his helicopter in between the shark and the surfers to act as a diversion while hand signalling the surfers to swim to shore.At first the surfers, who were unaware of the danger they were in, thought Brown was just waving to them.

They only realised the danger they were faced with when they saw all passengers in the helicopter waving "like mad"."The shark then began swimming away. Glen [Brown] said he continued to monitor the shark as it moved away until it was out of sight and lost beneath the sea surface," said Lambinon.

The honeymoon couple, Johan and Candice Fouche from Tableview in Cape Town, who also happen to be professional photographers, took pictures of the shark to show the surfers how close the great white had been to them.Lambinon appealed to bathers, surfers, paddlers and boaters to be cautious along the coast of Plettenberg Bay as there has been an increase in shark activity in the area.


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