Surfer killed after shark bites off legs in Australia

Photo: ABC news

SYDNEY (AP) — A Japanese national died Monday after a shark tore off his legs while he was surfing off Australia’s east coast, not far from the area where another surfer was mauled by a shark a day earlier, officials said.

The 41-year-old man was sitting on his board waiting for a wave when the shark came up behind him and grabbed the back of the board and the man’s legs in its mouth, said David Wright, mayor of the New South Wales town of Ballina, where the attack occurred. The man’s friends, who had been surfing alongside him, rushed him to shore, where they tried to stop the bleeding with tourniquets and performed CPR.

“But because both legs were gone, he bled to death very quickly,” Wright said.

Officials have not released the man’s name, but Wright said he had been living in the area and worked at a local surf shop and as a cleaner at a hotel.

Shelly Beach, the site of the attack, was closed, along with a larger stretch of coastline as officials searched for the shark.

Ballina is just 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Seven Mile Beach, where 35-year-old surfer Jabez Reitman was attacked on Sunday.

“I just freaked out,” Reitman told reporters as he was taken from an ambulance at a hospital on Sunday. “I thought it was a dolphin at first until I started feeling and realized it was pretty significant lacerations.”

Reitman was surfing off Seven Mile Beach, near the tourist town of Byron Bay, when he was bitten by what he described as a 2-to-3-meter (7-to-10-foot) shark.

“I should’ve stayed in bed,” he said of his decision to go surfing.

Reitman was later transferred from Byron Bay to Gold Coast University Hospital, which reported his condition as stable.

Wright, the Ballina mayor, said he suspected both attacks were linked, given their similarity and proximity. But he said locals, though somber, were taking the attack in stride.

“It’s just an accident,” Wright said.

In September, a 50-year-old swimmer was killed by a shark at Byron Bay.

Sharks are common off Australia’s beaches, but fatal attacks are rare; the country has averaged fewer than two deadly attacks per year in recent decades.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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