Surfer dies after losing leg in Australian shark attack

Ambulance and police officers helping the critically injured surfer on May 31 after a shark ripped off his leg in an attack in Australia's west.
Ambulance and police officers helping the critically injured surfer on May 31 after a shark ripped off his leg in an attack in Australia's west.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - A surfer who lost a leg in an Australian shark attack has died in hospital, police said Saturday (June 4), adding that his injuries were too severe for him to survive.

Ben Gerring, 29, was with a group of surfers at Falcon Beach in Western Australia when a suspected great white pounced on him on Tuesday, ripping off his right leg above the knee and snapping his surfboard in half.

Fellow surfers rushed to his aid, helping him from the water and giving him first aid before he could be transferred to Royal Perth Hospital in efforts praised by his family.

"Tragically, the man was unable to recover from his injury and passed away last night (Friday)," Western Australia Police said in a statement.

Authorities said a 4.2m shark was caught on Wednesday near to where the attack occurred, but they could not confirm whether it was responsible. The shark was destroyed at sea.

Deadly attacks are relatively rare, according to the International Shark Attack File, which in February reported a record 98 shark attacks worldwide last year.

However, only six were fatal, including one in Australia, it said.

The Western Australian government has already ruled out a return to a controversial policy under which baited hooks attached to floating drums were placed near popular beaches in 2014 and used to capture sharks, with the biggest of the animals put down.

The catch-and-kill policy was abandoned after objections from the state's environmental agency and conservationists.

"The policy did not prove effective in catching great whites and the great white shark was principally the problem," state Premier Colin Barnett said Thursday.

Surfing Western Australia events manager Justin Majeks said the death would be hard felt in the surfing community.

"It's unfortunately one of these things we have to deal with here in Western Australia. We have a fairly alive ocean that surrounds our coast," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Experts say attacks are increasing as water sports become more popular, but stress that fatalities remain rare.