Australian police are searching for the remains of a 52-year-old man who was bitten by a shark while surfing in Australia on Friday.
The victim, who has been identified by authorities as Andrew Sharpe, was the focus of an intense police search and recovery mission yesterday after witnesses reported that he was pulled from his board by a shark estimated to be up to 13-foot-long.
Officials say they have lost hope for his safe return after two pieces of a wetsuit were found in the waters close to where he had been surfing. The incident took place at Kelp Beds in Wylie Bay near Esperance, a town on the coast of Western Australia.
Sharpe was reportedly surfing with more than half a dozen friends before being bitten on the leg, knocked from his board and eventually pulled underwater.
Despite attempts to help there was little that could be done, witnesses said. At least one man had spotted a shark around the time of the bite, according to WAToday.
“One of the surfers tried to get from the water but was unable to do so,” state premier Mark McGowan told reporters yesterday, saying the coastline was a breeding ground for great white sharks and home to seal colonies, The Guardian reported.
Yesterday, a surfboard was also recovered from the ocean with “obvious signs of shark attack,” WA Police Senior Sergeant Justin Tarasinski said in a media briefing. Experts are examining the board to try and determine the species of shark involved.
Tarasinski said police divers were having to search for the victim using jet skis instead of diving directly into the water due to the risk of a shark being in the area.
“We don’t hold any ongoing hope unfortunately for Mr Sharpe’s survival,” Tarasinski said as the hunt for remains continued. “We’ll continue on for as long as we possibly can… that’s trying to bring some closure to Mr Sharpe’s family,” he said, ABC reported.
The search and recovery mission was ultimately suspended today due to poor weather conditions and will start again tomorrow 7:00 a.m. local time.
“Fisheries officers will continue to conduct patrols from Wylie Bay to Cape Le Grand throughout the weekend,” government officials said in an advisory today.
Police confirmed in a Facebook post that it received information about a possible shark attack from St John Ambulance at approximately 10:45 a.m. yesterday.
“Wylie Bay has been closed to the public – further updates on beach closures should be sought from the Local Government Authority,” the law enforcement agency noted.
A friend of the victim, named Scott Docherty, told 9News: “We know the deal when we go surfing, it is what it is, you hope it never happens to you or anyone that you know.” Docherty said he was a “really nice lad” with a “family and couple of kids.”
It’s not the first fatal attack for the area. In 2017, a 17-year-old called Laeticia Brouwer died after being bitten by a great white. In January this year, an Esperance man, Gary Johnson, died after being attacked by a shark while scuba diving off Cull Island.
The state government says in an online fact sheet that more than 100 of the 370-plus shark species in the world are known to frequent Western Australian waters. Protected species in the area include the great white, whale, grey nurse and whaler sharks.