A woman has died after a suspected shark attack off New Zealand’s north island.
She was pulled from the waters at Waihi Beach, a two-hour drive south-east of Auckland, late on Thursday afternoon with leg wounds, local media reported. Emergency services were called but the woman died at the scene, police officials said.
New Zealand police on Friday night confirmed 19-year-old Kaelah Marlow, from Hamilton, had been killed at the beach.
The West Australian newspaper reported Marlow grew up in WA before moving to New Zealand five years ago with her parents and younger sister.
“You hear about shark attacks, but never in a million years you think it’ll be someone you know,” the 19-year-old’s aunt, Kylie French, told the newspaper.
“She was obviously out with her friends having a great time. She was a lovely girl, a fun girl, always bubbly, into anything.”
A witness who did not wish to be named earlier told the news website Stuff he saw Marlow swimming directly in front of the lifeguard flags, quite far out from the beach.
“I could hear some screams and then I saw the IRB [inflatable rescue boat] go out to get her,” he said. “Obviously her friends were remarkably distraught.”
The lifeguards got her in quickly and tried their hardest to keep her alive with CPR, he said.
Another witness, Eliott Hall, said paramedics performed CPR on the woman for more than 20 minutes as her friends gathered around.
Local people and holidaymakers later lit candles in memory of the victim. “It could have been any of us, so we just thought we’d have a drink for the person involved,” resident Mark Wilson told Stuff.
He said he had been swimming at the beach on Thursday afternoon when he was told to get out of the water. He didn’t realise what was happening until a rescue helicopter landed.
He said he frequently saw sharks in the area and that he believed the shark involved in the attack was likely a great white.
The last fatal shark attack in New Zealand was in 2013 when the 46-year-old film-maker Adam Strange was killed off Muriwai Beach, also near Auckland.
More than 60 shark species are known to swim in New Zealand’s waters but attacks are rare. The last non-fatal shark attack was in 2018 at Baylys Beach, north-west of Auckland, according to the New Zealand police website.
The police have referred the case to the coroner.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 8 January 2021. Lead Image: Locals from the New Zealand town of Waihi say sightings of great white sharks are common Photograph: Ross Armstrong/Alamy Stock Photo.
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