Article from: AAP
February 11, 2009 09:22am
A NAVY diver fought off a shark as it attacked him during an anti-terrorism training exercise in Sydney Harbour, the navy says.
The 31-year-old man is undergoing emergency surgery and is in a serious condition following the attack at Woolloomooloo Bay, in Sydney's inner east, just before 7am (AEDT) today.
Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral Nigel Coates said the attack occurred in the area between Mrs Macquarie's Chair and Garden Island Naval Base.
Rear Admiral Coates, who is Fleet Commander at Garden Island, confirmed the man is a navy diver who was participating in a diving exercise in Sydney Harbour run by the navy over the past two weeks.
"He was with a police diver, I understand, at the time because the exercise included police divers. The attack occurred on the surface,'' he told Fairfax Radio Network.
"He fought off the shark. He hit the shark a few times, as I understand it, and then swam a couple of metres to the safety boat which was obviously nearby.
"The safety boat people got him on board, applied first aid, rang triple-0, got him to the ambulance and up to the hospital.
"It sounds to me, initially at least, like he got to hospital very quickly, and he's in the good hands of St Vincent's.''
Navy divers were a "pretty tough breed'' who trained regularly in Sydney Harbour and were used to the conditions, he said.
A New South Wales ambulance spokesman said the 31-year-old suffered severe injuries to his right hand and thigh.
The diver was rushed to nearby St Vincent's Hospital where a spokesman said the victim was undergoing surgery.
"He's up in surgery at the moment,'' the spokesman said.
"The fact that he has been rushed into surgery indicates that it is quite serious.''
The diver was taking part in the Kondari Trial, a test of new technologies to protect ports and ships from terrorist attack, which began on Monday.
A spokesman for the Defence Science and Technology Organisation said it was likely the trial would be cancelled today.
A shark expert said a bull shark was likely to be responsible for the attack.
"If the injuries are severe, it's more likely to be a bull shark,'' shark expert John West from Taronga Zoo said.
"This time of year, there's a number of species of sharks which are in the harbour: wobbegong, Port Jackson, as well as more dangerous types such as the bull shark and the dusky shark.
"The bull sharks are the most dangerous. But I don't know what sort of shark is involved or the circumstances.''
The last shark attack in Sydney Harbour was at Athol Bay, near Taronga Zoo, in 2000, and the last fatal shark attack in the harbour occurred in 1963, Mr West said.
Martha Hathaway was killed by a bull shark at Middle Harbour in 1963.
A report on the likelihood of shark attacks in Sydney Harbour during the 2000 Olympic Games said the risk was infinitesimally small.
However, the report, by Mr West and Dr John Paxton, research fellow at the Australian Museum, also said: "We recognise that in biology exceptions can occur and that it is never safe to say never.''