'I had no idea it was a shark attack'
WHEN Bobby Macdonald responded to a mayday call late yesterday afternoon, he did not expect to be faced with a shark attack.
The Airlie Beach boat skipper was working around the Whitsunday Islands when he heard a mayday call from Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island about 5.15pm.
Only about 15 minutes away from the scene, Mr McDonald was among the first there.
He called 000 as he headed to Cid Harbour from his position between Hamilton and Long Islands.
What he found when he arrived on scene was only partly what he had been expecting.
"It was very messy and the family were very distressed," he said.
However, Mr Macdonald did not even know it was a shark attack until after he had left the scene.
"From what I'd heard on the radio, I had no idea it was a shark attack," he said.
"I assumed she had been run over by a boat.
"I've seen propeller injuries before."
The 46-year-old Tasmanian woman had been bitten on the leg by a shark and was bleeding profusely.
She had been pulled out of the water by others on the 36-foot yacht she had been swimming from.
"The shark had taken a huge chunk out of her inside leg and she was bleeding out," RACQ CQ Rescue rescue crewman Ben McCauley said.
When Mr Macdonald arrived, he worked with doctor from a nearby boat who had come to help, as well as the woman's family who had been on the yacht.
"It was obvious the injuries were very bad," he said.
"The main thing was to keep her alive and conscious."
Mr Macdonald contacted the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter on the radio to co-ordinate what needed to be done for her to be picked up from the boat.
The mast and the fact the vessel had no open deck area prevented the winch from occurring from the boat, so Mr Macdonald helped get the woman into a dinghy she could be winched from to be transported to hospital.
He remained on the radio helping to co-ordinate the pick-up with the crew in the helicopter.
"It wasn't an easy rescue," he said.
"It was getting very dark."
This morning the woman remained in a critical condition in Mackay Base Hospital.
Mr Macdonald described the shark attack as a "freak accident".
"I've been working out here for 15 years and I've never seen it (a shark attack) happen," he said.
"I've seen sharks but never anything aggressive.
"I've dived with sharks and it's never been an issue."