‘TRAGIC’: First fatal shark attack in region's history
THE community is reeling from the first known fatal attack on the Clarence coast after a great white shark killed teenager Mani Hart-Deville at Wilson's Headland on Saturday.
It was the first time Far North Coast Surf Lifesaving duty officer of the Clarence, Peter Sweetman, had experienced such tragedy in the region's waters.
"I've been in the Yamba Surf Club for over 38 years and I've never been aware of another shark attack of this nature," Mr Sweetman said.
"There have been very minor shark attacks in the area, but this is the first really major one that I'm aware of."
Minnie Water resident and fellow keen surfer Jake Trevillian said this was the first shark attack he was aware of in the area.
"It's the first that I know of around these couple of beaches," he said.
"There's been bumps, close calls and people knocked off boards over the years, but no actual bite."
Coffs/Clarence Police duty officer Inspector Joanne Reid also couldn't recall the last time such a major incident occurred on the Clarence coast.
"While I can say anecdotally that I've never experienced one in this area, the whole coastline has seen them over the years," Insp Reid said.
"While there is no historical information that shark attacks are common in this area, it doesn't remove the risk, and that makes it even more tragic."
Saturday's tragedy was the second fatal shark attack in NSW this year.
Last month, Gold Coast resident Rob Pedretti was attacked by a three-metre white shark while surfing at Kingscliff. He died from his injuries a short time later.
"There's nothing you can do about avoiding sharks if the shark is there," Mr Sweetman said.
"If you are unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place you just have to make your own call."
The Clarence coast has had its fair share of close encounters.
In February 2001, Mark Butler was surfing alone at Brooms Head when a shark ripped a hole in his left leg.
Dean Everson, then 18, used his bodyboard to fight off a 2.5 metre white pointer shark at Yamba's Turners Beach in February 2010.
A year later, Angourie surfer Steve King was attacked while surfing along back beach, Wooloweyah.
"As I went to stand up I got hit from behind on the right-hand side," he said in a 2011 interview with the Daily Examiner.
"The force of the bang launched me forward through the air where I started cartwheeling as I came down closer to the water."
Mr King sustained puncture wounds to his leg.
In 2016 Angourie surfer Will Webber was checking the surf when he spotted a "15 footer" launch like a missile out of the water.
"I'm definitely not surfing today," he said. "I'll be surfing very close to the rocks from now on."
In September 2017, Iluka beaches were closed after Abe McGrath was attacked by a three-metre shark. He sustained lacerations to his right hip.
The attack came just two days after a dead whale was spotted being eaten by several big white pointers off nearby Angourie.
As for the fatal attack on Saturday, investigations continue into what led to the tragedy.
"We're still trying to piece it together," Insp Reid said.
"Part of the process is to work with the Department of Primary Industry. We need to look at the type of injuries that were sustained and the type of shark that was responsible.
"It's important to note now during school holidays that all beaches in the Clarence Valley area will be closed in the near future and we will reassess that on a day-by-day basis along with local council and surf lifesaving."