New South Wales, Australia – Brett Conellan, a professional surfer and manager at a surf store, was attacked by a shark while he was surfing at Bombo beach in New South Wales today. The animal destroyed Conellan’s leg. His tight was severely damaged and his quad muscle was bitten out exposing the bone.
The scenario was grim. Brett was 75 miles away from the beach, but he wasn’t alone, his friend and one of his saviors, Joel Trist, was surfing with him. Trist told local press that he was about 50 miles away from Colleman when he heard “a horrible scream.” He wasn’t sure what the problem was, but in that situation, there was only one possibility. He rushed to aid his friend and as he got closer, he could see the animal violently shaking the water. Fortunately, the shark left before he arrived and this is where the heroic story begins.
“I said ‘Quick, jump on my board’ and I grabbed him and got him on my board,” Joel Trist told the local press.
After reaching Brett, which was badly injured, he moved him on his own surfing board and started paddling the 75 miles to the coast. It seemed impossible, but the elements acted in their favor and a huge wave took them to the cost.
The first part was over, but with that kind of injury, things were everything but good for the 22-year-old surfer. Luckily among the crowd at the beach, there was a nurse. She quickly assessed the situation and use the rope from the surfboard to improvise a tourniquet keeping the man from bleeding to death; the paramedics were efficient, there was no traffic and he was treated right after arriving the hospital.
Doctors were astonished when they saw him. If things had gone a little worse, he wouldn’t have made it.
Australia has a bad record with sharks
This kind of attack is known as a hit and run. Sharks do not prey on humans, but they don’t have the best sight in the animal kingdom. Most shark attacks happen because they mistake people for seals or sea lions. Humans are too bony for them, but sea mammals have lots of fats with less bone structure which makes them a very good meal.
Hit and run assaults are not that rare. In these cases, the animal attacks the leg from the hip to the knee holding the person and then releasing them. Most of these attacks are attributed to big predators, such as great white, tiger and bull sharks according to Factmonster.
In 2014, there were 572 confirmed attacks in Australia, and from that population, 153 people died from the assaults. This is half the attacks reported in the United States, but the attacks are much more deadly. That same year, the United States reported 1,104 shark assaults and 35 casualties.
A public image issue
There is a township called Kiama. The name comes from a native name, “Kiarama” which means “place where the sea makes noise.” The town’s profit heavily relies on tourism. The biggest attractions are the beaches around it. Several surfing contests are carried out there luring a lot of media, athletes, fans and tourists. Specialists suspect that not all shark attacks are reported out of fear of scaring people away.
Do you have to avoid Australian beaches?
Not really. Shark attacks are still very rare. The problem is the number of uninformed people that wonder in their domain. Even though we are not their favorite prey, there is a list of precautions to have in mind if you don’t want your vacations to be ruined by a shark.
The animals are most active at night, so those movie-like night swims are out of the equation. Also, fishes are on the menu, which means you have to avoid fish banks, areas preferred by fishermen, sand bars and drop-offs. If you see birds and tortoises surrounding an area, there is fish and where is fish there are sharks. They are known for smelling blood, so you don’t go swimming with a scratch. Lastly, bright colors have been reported to attract unwelcome company in the water.
Brett Colleman’s case is a reminder. He is in the hospital in an induced coma until his condition gets a little more stable. He will have to thank a lot of people when he wakes up.