Mother of three saves man attacked by Great White shark
A MOTHER of three was hailed a hero after risking her life to rescue a stranger from a shark.
A white pointer up to five metres long attacked schoolteacher Jason Cull, 37, while he was swimming with dolphins at Middleton Beach, in front of the Albany Surf Life Saving Club nte at 7.20am yesterday.
Joanne Lucas, 50, who was on the beach after arriving early for surfboat rowing practice, dived into the water after hearing Mr Cull's screams for help. "I just saw someone thrashing in the water and saying 'Help me, help me,' th" she said.
"I thought it was just a dolphin [in the water] but someone else was screaming, `He has been attacked,' so I raced down there."
Mrs Lucas swam 80 metres offshore to retrieve Mr Cull as the shark, one of several sighted off the beach, circled. "Just before I got to him he said, 'It's got my leg.' I grabbed him and swam back to shore."
She found "great big chunks" missing from one of his legs.
Great Southern Region Surf Life Saving support services co-ordinator Tom Marron praised Mrs Lucas's "act of incredible bravery".
"She heard him shout out for help and dived in with no regard for her own safety," he said.
"He suffered a fair bite. If she hadn't followed her instinct, or had been a bit later, then the bloke could have bled to death or been dragged out by the shark. What she did was brilliant."
Mrs Lucas told Mr Marron: "I'd always wondered what I'd do in that situation, and now I know."
Mr Cull was treated by surf club members on the beach, given first aid and oxygen, and taken by St John Ambulance to Albany Regional Hospital, where he underwent surgery on his left leg.
Beaches were closed from Middleton Beach to Emu Point, three kilometres away.
An Albany Sea Rescue plane reported two more sharks in the vicinity, and lifesavers used inflatable craft in an attempt to track the sharks and herd them back into open water.
Efforts were called off late in the afternoon after rain and cloud made it impossible to spot the sharks from the air.
Local residents said shark attacks were extremely rare in the region and they believed the sharks might have been attracted close to shore by a school of fish.
Mrs Lucas manages Camp Quaranup, a 20-minute drive from Albany. She was being comforted by friends and family last night.
Grant Turner, the senior ranger in charge of the Albany district, said she should receive a bravery award.
"Someone should nominate her for a medal," Mr Turner said from the beach, where he was directing operations in conjunction with other rescue services.
He described Mrs Lucas as being "physically tiny but very fit and very strong", adding: "Everyone has so much admiration for her bravery."
Mr Turner said beaches would remain closed until the rangers were satisfied that the sharks had left the area.
"The planes will go up again in the moring to see if they can sight the sharks," he said.