Gold Coast beaches locked down after first fatal shark attack in 62 years

Gold Coast beaches from Burleigh to the border are closed and patrols by helicopter and jet ski are searching coastal waters for a shark that attacked and killed a surfer late Tuesday at a netted beach at Coolangatta on the southern end of the Gold Coast.

Sep 09, 2020, updated Sep 09, 2020
Gold Coast shark attack victim Nick Slater.

Gold Coast shark attack victim Nick Slater.

Local surfer and real estate agent Nick Slater, 46, was attacked by the shark at Greenmount Beach just after 5pm Tuesday.

It was the first fatal shark attack on a Gold Coast beach in 62 years. The last deadly Gold Coast shark attack before Tuesday’s tragedy was the fatal mauling of 21-year-old Brisbane man Peter Gerard Spronk while swimming at Surfers Paradise in 1958.

Slater, who was longboard surfing in front of the surf club in a busy late afternoon line up of surfers and ski paddlers, died within minutes of the shock attack by the shark, believed to be a white pointer. A large tiger shark was caught Wednesday morning in nets off Greenmount and investigations were underway to determine if there was any link between the tiger shark and the attack on Slater.

Queensland Ambulance Service were called to Greenmount at 5.08pm Tuesday after Slater suffered critical leg injuries, with paramedics confirming the shark bite stretched from his hip to his knee.

Gold Coast Chief Lifeguard Warren Young said despite the best efforts of lifeguards and paramedics, Slater could not be saved.
“It was a pretty severe attack and the ambulance and paramedics were here and did what they could, but it was to no avail,” Mr Young said. “They did a good response, there wasn’t anything they could do really.”

Police Acting Inspector Jonathan Lavin said Slater was pulled from the water by surfers who witnessed the mauling.
“It is extremely worrying — school holidays aren’t far off,” Inspector Lavin said.

Queensland Police said a report would be prepared for the coroner.

Local surfer Jade Parker, who was onshore when the attack occurred but helped retrieve the body, said Slater’s board was still attached by his leg rope and had a tooth from the shark lodged in it.

“The tooth was actually still lodged in the fibreglass. It was a good-sized bite into the board and the tooth had obviously just snapped off.

“I thought it was an obvious white pointer tooth,” Parker told ABC radio.

Shark expert Dr Daryl McPhee, Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Bond University on the Gold Coast, said the tooth would help identify the shark.

“It will be very difficult to locate it (the shark). I’m not in favour of a shark being hunted down after a bite. I don’t think it achieves anything.

“There is no such thing as a rogue shark, it’s not a Hollywood movie, so I don’t really think it would achieve a lot,” McPhee said.

McPhee said a high number of bait fish and marine activity in the water may have attracted sharks into the coastal zone.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said beach closures would stay in place until patrols by lifeguards, police, Surf Life Saving Queensland and the Department of Fisheries could gather more information.

The Westpac helicopter was deployed at first light Wednesday to Greenmount to search for the shark. Surf Lifesaving Queensland said the organisation was also assisting City of Gold Coast lifeguards by providing four Wave Runner jet ski patrols between Burleigh and Tweed River.

“It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, this is still a devastating shock to the Gold Coast,” Tate said.

“I think once we know that the shark is not in the vicinity or we have tracked it, then the beach will be reopened. You’ve just got to know before you make your next move,” he said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there had never been a shark attack at Greenmount Beach.

“I firmly believe our shark control program has been saving lives for generations,” she said.

“If improvements can be made, then of course they should be, but the ultimate goal has to be to protect human life.”

The Premier said the efforts of lifesavers, life guards, members of the Greenmount surf club and passers-by who went to the aid of the victim “were beyond admirable” and they should be nominated for bravery awards.

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the killer shark was yet to be identified and the state government would continue to investigate shark control technologies.

“We don’t hunt sharks, our primary position is always paramount in protecting human life, so we’ll continue maintaining the shark control program as it stands,” Furner said.

Greenmount Beach is protected by shark nets and eight drumlines and is considered one of the Gold Coast’s premier surfing beaches featuring a surfing superbank that stretches north from Snapper Rocks.

The Gold Coast fatality comes just months after another Queensland shark attack death when 36-year-old Matthew Tratt was attacked by a shark and died while spearfishing off Fraser Island in early July.

In June, 60-year-old Gold Coast surfer Rob Pedretti died after he was mauled by a three-metre white shark at Salt Beach just south of the Queensland-NSW border at Kingscliff.

Despite the southern Gold Coast beaches being closed and lifeguards patrolling the waters in search of the shark, surfers continued surfing at the superbank on Wednesday morning.

“If you’re yearning to swim, go north of Burleigh,” Tate said.

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