Teenager dies from shark attack

Northern NSW lifeguard co-ordinator Stephen Leahy and Richmond Local Area Command crime manager, Detective Inspector Steve Clarke, give details to reporters about the fatal shark attack at Ballina during Tuesdays press conference at Lismore police station.

Police, surf lifesavers and politicians have praised the bravery of Wollongbar teenager Brock Curtis, who ignored danger and re-entered the surf at Ballinas Lighthouse Beach on Tuesday morning to help his mate Peter Edmonds back to shore after he was fatally mauled by a shark.

Peter, a 16-year-old Alstonville High School student, also from Wollongbar, tragically died from loss of blood and shock on the beach where Brock desperately tried to revive him after he pulled him from the water just after 8am.

He had suffered two major bites to his left leg while bodyboarding near Ballinas North Wall.

The two teenagers had been bodyboarding when it started raining and Brock left the water to move their belongings under shelter.

When he returned to the surf, Brock noticed Peter in distress and as he approached saw him floating unconscious face down in the water.

He turned him over, noticing blood in the water as well as a large dark shape moving away, then dragged him back to shore, called Triple 0 and carried out CPR before running to raise the alarm with the nearby coastguard tower.

Sadly, further attempts shortly after by lifeguards and NSW Ambulance paramedics to resuscitate Peter were in vain.

At a press conference later that day, Richmond Local Area Command crime manager Detective Inspector Steve Clarke expressed his deepest sympathy to Peters family and friends while praising Brocks extreme act of bravery for risking his own life by re-entering the surf.

The type of shark has yet to be identified and will probably never be known but bull sharks, known for their aggressiveness and for feeding around river mouths, are believed by some to be the most likely culprit.

Recent non-fatal attacks on the Far North Coast are believed to have involved tiger, mako or bull sharks.

As a result of the attack all beaches in Ballina shire have been closed with a decision to reopen them likely to be made later this week.

NSW Surf Life Saving spokesman Stephen Leahy said jet ski patrols of the area after the attack had not sighted the shark.

Mr Leahy said three shark alarms had been raised this past summer at the beach.

There have been several non-fatal shark attacks on the Far North Coast in the past 20 years.

The last fatal shark attack in the region was in 1993 when a honeymooning couple scuba diving off Julian Rocks near Byron Bay were attacked by a large white pointer, which killed the man.

Byron Bay-based NSW MLC Ian Cohen offered his condolences to Peters family and also praised Brocks courage that is worthy of a bravery medal.

The Greens MP and long-time shark conservation campaigner said it was inevitable that the age-old debate would re-emerge about the safety of people in the surf.

Obviously at a time like this its very difficult for us all to look beyond the shocking incident itself, but we do need to remember that this is the first fatal attack in NSW in the last 15 years, and that the vast majority of shark species are harmless, Mr Cohen said. Of the 150 species of shark found in Australian waters, only three are a danger to people along the coastline. These are the bull sharks thought to be responsible for this attack, tiger sharks and the great white which is listed as a vulnerable species.

To maintain some perspective on the relative risk of a fatal shark attack, its important to note that last year alone in Australia there were 82 coastal drowning deaths but no fatal shark attacks.

As a surfer, theres always that fear of a shark attack in the back of your mind when you paddle out, but we still go surfing.

This incident highlights the bravery of the young mans friend. It also underscores the importance of surfing with a buddy particularly at more remote beaches.

Although this incident is deeply shocking to us all, the reality is that surfing remains a relatively safe sport and the average of one fatality per decade from shark attack should not undermine shark conservation efforts generally, said Mr Cohen.


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