A 39-year-old woman was tragically killed by a Great White Shark as she took an early morning dip this morning in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. It is believed she was on holiday in the popular Garden Route resort from Cape Town. Yesterday – Heritage Day (24 Sep) – was a public holiday in SA.
The victim was in shallow water, not too far from the shore, when the shark apparently came in fast from deeper water and grabbed her in its jaws, close to fellow swimmers.
The female bather – who was on the edge of the group – let out a scream as the shark hit her and took a bite, and disappeared under the water.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was called as screaming swimmers and surfers cleared the water at Central Beach in Plett, just before 8am.
An NSRI inshore rescue craft was launched and sped to the scene where it quickly found her body, about 15 metres from shore.
The Bitou Municipality, which oversees the beach, shut down the Bay and has put up signs warning locals and visitors to stay out of the water. The victim’s name has not yet been released, but it is reported that her husband and child were at the scene.
The woman is the third person to be fatally attacked by a Great White Shark in Plettenberg Bay in the past 11 years, and in fact the second in just three months.
An eye witness told rescuers: “It was a bit cloudy but there was some sun out and there were quite a few people taking an early dip as the temperature was quite warm.
“Then I just heard lots of screaming and saw people running out the water. I guessed it was a shark attack but I was quite a way away and then the lifeboat turned up.
“I then heard a woman had been attacked while swimming only two or three waves out so it was quite shallow but it was said nothing could be done to help her,” she said.
In June, married father and stockbroker Bruce Woloy – an acclaimed long-distance swimmer and keen snorkeller – was swimming at Sanctuary Beach in Plett when he was attacked and killed by a shark.
And in 2011 local carpenter and keen surfer Tim Van Heerden was on his board when a Great White Shark attacked while he was waiting to catch a wave. Despite a brave friend grabbing him and getting him onto rocks, Tim had suffered two massive bite wounds to his groin and upper leg which severed the femoral artery, and he passed away.
Bitou Municipality Mayor David Swart said on Sunday:
“We have never had a fatality at Plettenberg until 2011 and now we have had three, with two in the last three months.
“We are researching into and looking at putting up a shark barrier and increased warning signage and starting our lifeguard’s season a month earlier than usual.
“There seems to be no change in the shark’s behaviour in this area so it is a bit of a mystery why we have had three fatal attacks in such a short space of time.
“Our thoughts go out to the woman and her family at this time.”
The woman’s body has been handed to forensic pathologists and the police for an inquest docket to be made while her next of kin are informed.
Great White Sharks can grow up to 6 metres long and weigh up to 2 tonnes and have up to 300 razor sharp serrated teeth arranged in rows in its jaws.
The predator, when attacking, can swim at up to 10km/hr guided by an extremely powerful sense of smell… but normally preys on seals, sea lions, dolphins and turtles.
Humans are often mistaken for seals especially when wearing wet suits, and attacks are said by experts not to be intentional but “experimental” when they bite.
They usually move away after biting once when they realise the human is not their natural prey… but the damage done by just one powerful bite is often fatal.
In the last 25 years 37 people have been killed in shark attacks off South Africa and going back as far as 1950 the figure rises to 66.
Shark activity along the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town increases in winter due to the annual sardine run – an important food source for a long period.
In May the NSRI and Bitou Municipality appealed to people in the area to exercise caution on the Keurbooms River and along the Plettenberg Bay coastline due to shark activity, after a 3.5 metre Great White was spotted in the river, about 300m upstream from the river mouth, during an NSRI routine exercise.
A South African shark expert, who asked not to be named, said:
“You have to remember the ocean has always been the territory of the shark – they rule.
“There are more and more people in the water these days what with surfing and paddle boarding and swimming and the sharks are always never very far away.
“But they are not seeking out humans and attacks are rare and usually not intended as they mistake humans for prey but the results are often fatal.
“You have 47 time more chance of being killed by lightning or 11 times more chance of being killed by fireworks than being killed by a shark. Wrong place wrong time.”
To use any of the text or photos, please contact Jamie Pyatt News Ltd.
WATCH Cape Town woman dies in Plettenberg Bay shark attack
eNCA speaks to NSRI spokesperson, Craig Lambinon: