Witness tells of horror shark attack

19 April 2012 - 19:36 By Sapa

A "huge and aggressive" shark attacked a body boarder twice before ripping his body apart in Kogel Bay in Cape Town on Thursday, an eyewitness said.

"It was a horror show. It looked like something from the Jaws movie," seasoned surfer Matt Marais told Sapa in a telephone interview.

"What was supposed to be a fun day at the beach turned out to be any surfer's worst nightmare and it happened in minutes, in front of my eyes."

The victim's brother was believed to have been with him in the water when the great white shark, said to be between four and five metres long, killed him. The man had been lying on his body board waiting for a wave to surf when a fin appeared, said Marais.

"I had just got out of the water when I saw the dorsal fin. The shark was huge and aggressive and just went for him, not once but three times."

The first time the body boarder fought back, trying to get the board between him and the shark. The second time it pulled him under. The third time it was "as if someone pushed a button and the sea just turned red".

Marais, who has been a surfer for 19 years, said the predator then hung around in the shallow water.

ER24 spokesman Andre Visser said when paramedics arrived on scene, the shark was still there and the man's leg was floating in the water.

The City of Cape Town closed the beach, which is between Gordon's Bay and Rooi Els.

"We have closed the beach because there are still [great] white sharks present in the water," spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said.

Marais said five days earlier chumming (luring fish or sharks by throwing bait into the water) had taken place for research by US-based documentary maker Chris Fischer. Fischer was granted a research permit to film great white sharks in the Cape.

But following news of Thursday's attack, Biodiversity and Coastal Research director Alan Boyd cancelled it.

"I cancelled all the shark research permits for the project 10 minutes ago when I heard about it," Boyd said.

"This incident is a tremendous tragedy and I'm very shocked. No more field work will be proceeding from here on out."

Initially, when the permit was approved, there were fears that chumming could attract sharks to popular beaches. Fischer had been in the country for the last month filming sharks in their natural habitat, for the National Geographic documentary "Shark Men".

Dirk Schmidt, a wildlife photographer and author of "White Sharks", had at the time called for a high shark alert to be issued, saying it was prudent.

His concern was that up to five tons of chum (bait) would be used to attract sharks to the boat. He said the chum slick could be blown closer to beaches by on-shore winds. Despite this Boyd issued the permit, saying chumming would have little effect close to shore.