Surfer in stable condition after Australian shark attack


CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A teenage surfer was in stable condition after he was bitten by a shark Monday at the same Australian beach where a Japanese surfer was fatally mauled last year, officials said.

The 17-year-old high school student was surfing with friends on the first day of the students’ spring vacation when he was attacked off Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach early Monday, Ballina Mayor David Wright said.

The shark struck from behind and bit across the board’s fins as the boy lay on the board paddling. The shark’s lower jaw tore into the fiberglass as its upper teeth clamped his right hip and thigh, Wright said.

“The shark lacerated his leg in three or four places fairly deep,” Wright said. “Luckily the lifeguards were on duty and got down there quickly.”

“He should be OK. It was very close to his artery,” Wright added.

The boy, a Ballina resident, was taken by ambulance to Lismore Base Hospital, where he was in a stable condition, emergency services said.

Witnesses said the shark responsible appeared to be a 3-meter (10-foot) great white shark.

In February last year, a 41-year-old Japanese tourist died after losing both his legs to a great white 3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet) long while surfing at Lighthouse Beach.

There have been four shark attacks in the Ballina area requiring hospital treatment since that tragedy and many more near misses, Wright said.

The state government last month abandoned plans to safeguard Lighthouse Beach with a 700-meter (770-yard) nylon shark barrier.

Three attempted trials “identified significant installation and maintenance issues,” the government said.

Wright said he was in discussions with the state government on Monday to fund surveillance drones to scan the beaches. Tourism is Ballina’s biggest industry and an increase in shark attacks and scares have reduced visitor numbers in recent months.

All beaches around Ballina, which is on the east coast 600 kilometers (350 miles) north of Sydney, will be closed for 24 hours after the attack, police said.

The last fatal attack in Australia was in June, when a 60-year-old diver was killed by a large shark off the west coast city of Perth.

Less than a week earlier, a 29-year-old surfer died after his leg was bitten off south of Perth.

Australia has averaged fewer than two deadly attacks per year in recent decades.

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