Sharks targeted as woman, girl fight for life
A CHILD is fighting for her life after a shock shark attack that was almost identical to the mauling that almost claimed the life of a Tasmanian tourist off the coast of Mackay just one day earlier.
Authorities yesterday swooped on the Whitsundays to try to prevent any further attacks at Cid Harbour, with baits deployed to save swimmers and kill predatory sharks.
Shark experts are investigating what species was responsible for the attacks, with locals speculating tiger sharks were to blame.
Justine Barwick, 46, was flown from Mackay Base Hospital last night to the Royal Brisbane where specialist doctors, including vascular surgeons, will try to save her life.
Shock at the attack on the mother-of-two off Whitsunday Island on Wednesday turned to further horror yesterday afternoon, with a second mauling less than a day later of a 12 year-old-girl in the same harbour.
The girl, believed to be on holiday from New Zealand, was with her sister and father when the shark struck about 1.45pm. She suffered severe blood loss after being bit on the leg just below the groin.
Emergency responders described the child's injuries as "absolutely horrific".
She was dragged to safety on a boat where bystanders provided first-aid before paramedics arrived. It is understood a holidaying veterinarian provided critical treatment which made the difference between life and death.
The girl was rushed to a beach near the nearby Sawmill Bay where RACQ CQ Rescue Helicopter Service medicos worked on her for 20 minutes. She remained conscious on the flight to Mackay Base Hospital where surgeons were waiting to operate.
"Her status at the moment could be called critical until further information is released," Queensland Ambulance Service Mackay operations manager Tracey Eastwick said.
Ms Eastwick looked shaken as she recounted the unprecedented events - two shark attacks in less than 24 hours in an area where maulings are almost unheard of.
"It is horrific, there is a patient with loved ones and families our hearts go out for them," she said. "As a community of paramedics, it is quite confronting to have two similar incidents in the space of less than 24 hours.
"The message they wanted to put across was that the first aid provided ... has contributed to saving their lives at this point in time."
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will look to bait sharks in the Cid Harbour area today in a bid to reduce the chance of any further attacks. Three drumlines with baited hooks will be deployed in the region this morning.
It comes as two fishermen in the Whitsundays confirmed they had caught four sharks in the last week.
A Queensland Boating and Fisheries patrol vessel was in the area yesterday afternoon to stop people swimming where the attacks occurred.
"Fisheries Queensland has organised for the Queensland Shark Control Program contractor based at Mackay to deploy three shark control drumlines in the area tomorrow (Friday) morning," said in a statement.
"Fisheries is working with other agencies, including the police and marine parks."
The Humane International Society will push ahead with court action in a bid to force the removal of shark drums from the north Queensland coastline, despite the near-fatal attacks. "This is a tragic accident, but shark bites of this severity are extremely infrequent and culling sharks is not the way to prevent them," the society said in a statement.
Its court action against the Government's Great Barrier Reef shark control program will begin in January.
Ms Barwick's family released a statement through her boss, Family Based Care Tasmania chief executive Douglass Doherty yesterday.
"Justine is a fighter - a fit, resilient woman who is an outstanding leader … these intrinsic attributes will serve her well in her recovery."
Ms Barwick was holidaying with husband Chris on their yacht Topaz with her best friend and the woman's daughter and her partner.
To reduce the risk of a shark attack in Queensland waters, people should be discerning when choosing where and when they swim and follow these swimmer safety guidelines
• Swim or surf only at patrolled beaches and between the flags
• Obey lifesavers' and lifeguards' advice, and heed all sign and safety warnings
• Leave the water immediately if a shark is sighted
• Do not swim or surf after dusk, at night or before dawn when sharks are most active
• Do not swim or surf in murky waters
• Do not swim in or near mouths of estuaries, artificial canals and lakes
• Never swim alone
• Never swim when bleeding
• Do not swim near schools of fish or where fish are being cleaned
• Do not swim near or interfere with shark control equipment
• Do not swim with animals.