A professional surfer was mauled by a shark off the Australian east coast on Wednesday evening, officials said.
Brett Connellan, 22, was flown by helicopter to Sydney’s St. George Hospital in serious condition after he was attacked 75 miles to the south off a beach near Kiama, a police statement said.
Joel Trist has been credited with saving the life of fellow surfer Brett Connellan who lost a large chunk of his left thigh when he was bitten while surfing at the northern end of Bombo Beach in Kiama at dusk on Wednesday.
As reported by the Daily Mail, Mr Trist was surfing about 50 metres away from Mr Connellan and, when he heard a “terrible scream” and saw the shark thrashing violently in the water, immediately paddled over to try to help.
“I actually lost sight of him at one stage as a wave was breaking over him,” Mr Trist said on Thursday morning.
“I paddled up to him, and obviously I knew what had happened, and I said to him: ‘What’s it like?’ And he said: ‘It’s not good.’ And at that point, I knew something was horribly wrong.”
Trist dragged Mr Connellan onto his surfboard and managed to get him into the shore.
“I said ‘Quick, jump on my board’ and I grabbed him and got him on my board,” Mr Trist said.
“We got stuck for a moment, and then a wave ended up washing us in, so we were quite lucky.”
Once on the beach, Trist and others – including an off-duty nurse – used a surfboard leg rope to apply a tourniquet to Mr Connellan’s thigh to stop the serious bleeding.
Those actions saved his life, Ambulance NSW Illawarra district officer Inspector Terry Morrow said.
“[Mr Connellan] had lost a large proportion of his left thigh, and the quad muscle was torn away right down to the bone,” Inspector Morrow said.
“He could’ve bled to death before we arrived on scene. He was very lucky the members of the public were there and acted as they did. They saved his life, to tell you the truth.”
Connellan is well known in the South Coast beach community and is the manager of a surfboard shop.
The shop’s owner, Dylan Perese, expressed his sorrow on social media over his friend’s accident.
“I still can’t comprehend it. Sharks are always in the back of every surfers mind but we never think it’s going to happen to someone we know, let alone your store manager and right hand man,” he said.
It was unclear what type of shark bit Mr Connellan, and experts will examine his wounds in a bid to determine the species and estimate the size.
Trist said he did not get a good glimpse of the shark, but said it was making quite a commotion in the water.
“I saw the shark thrashing around at that stage but I couldn’t comprehend at that time what was happening and again, just acting on instinct, I thought, well, what else could it be at that moment?
“I guess the adrenaline kicked in and I paddled as hard as I could towards him. Luckily by that stage the shark had gone away from where he was.
“To be honest, being a good distance away, I didn’t get a good glimpse of it, but from the thrashing … it looked like it hit him pretty hard.”
Sydney doctor Nathan Trist praised his brother on Twitter.
“So proud of my brother for paddling 50m, getting Brett to shore and putting leg rope tourniquet on,” he wrote.
A message was posted to Connellan’s Facebook page late on Wednesday saying he was in a serious but stable condition and was undergoing emergency surgery.
“He was saved by the actions of his mates, particularly [Joel Trist], who paddled towards Brett to pick him up and bring him to the beach,” the message said.
“[Mr Connellan] will be in an induced coma until his injuries are fully assessed. We would like to thank his close group of mates, particularly Joel, the people on the beach who helped, paramedics, police and hospital staff.”