SYDNEY (AP) — A surfer was seriously injured as he repeatedly punched a shark that mauled him off the Australian east coast on Friday, less than a week after a fatal attack, police and a witness said.
Craig Ison, 52, sustained significant wounds to his left leg and hand in the dawn attack at Evans Head, 550 kilometers (340 miles) north of Sydney, Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay said.
Ison was taken by ambulance to Lismore Base Hospital in serious but stable condition, police said.
The attack comes after a similar one Saturday off the island state of Tasmania when recreational diver Damian Johnson, 46, became the second victim of a fatal shark attack in Australia this year. He was mauled by a suspected great white.
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In the latest attack, Ison saw the shark and raised the alarm while surfing with friend Geoff Hill, Lindsay said.
“They then proceeded to try to paddle in from the ocean and … it appears the shark has then attacked the 52-year-old and has bitten him on the left-hand side,” Lindsay told reporters at the tourist town of Ballina, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Evans Head.
“He actually fought off the shark, we’re told, and has made it to shore with the help of that other surfer and passers-by,” he said.
Beach walkers saved Ison’s life by using surfboard leg ropes as tourniquets to slow the bleeding before paramedics arrived, Lindsay said.
Ison underwent surgery to his wounds later Friday, Lindsay said.
Ernie Bennett, mayor of Richmond Valley Council which includes Evans Heads, said a bull shark was thought responsible for the attack. It initially bit Ison’s hip and upper thigh. Ison’s hand and arm were lacerated as he fought back.
Hill described witnessing the attack as “like watching the Mick Fanning episode in replay,” referring to the internationally broadcast video of the professional surfer battling a shark during a competition in South Africa last week. Fanning survived unscathed after also punching his attacker.
“The white board went up in the air; the tail was thrashing around,” Hill told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Hill said before he could go to his friend’s rescue, Ison was back on his board and paddling for shore.
“He got in a couple of punches. He told us that when we were trying to give him first aid,” Hill said.
Hill surfs daily. He said he probably would not surf Saturday, but would return to the waves “once I’m over the shock of today.”
Ison’s partner of 10 years, Jennifer Brown, expected he too would return to surfing.
“He lives for it, so I think he’ll go back out once he’s all right,” she told reporters outside the hospital.
“The leg was a bit of a mess, it’s taken a bit of flesh but the muscle is intact so we’re pleased about that,” she said.
Beaches around Evans Heads were closed for 24 hours following the attack. Ballina was the scene of two recent shark attacks in which 32-year-old surfer Matt Lee was critically injured on July 2 and Japanese tourist Tadashi Nakahara, 41, was mauled to death while surfing in February.
Ballina is 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) north of the scene of last week’s fatal attack.
A day after Lee was attacked, a shark bit a surfboard, knocking its rider Michael Hoile, 52, into the sea 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Ballina at Lennox Head. The surfer was not injured.
Bennett said mayors in the region were meeting in Ballina on Friday to discuss strategies to cope with a growing shark menace.
Sharks are common off Australia’s beaches, but fatal attacks are rare. The country has averaged fewer than two deadly attacks per year in recent decades.