Chiswick Man Mauled by Shark

South African beach hotspot for shark attacks

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A British man who was attacked by a great white shark in Capetown this week is a former resident of Chiswick.

Michael Cohen ( 42), a part-time accountant ,was swimming at Fish Hoek beach on Wednesday when the 20-foot long shark attacked him. The area is notorious for shark attacks and there have been three attacks in the last six years, two of them fatal. It is believed his right leg was bitten off and the left leg severed below the knee in the attack.

Mr. Cohen, who was born in Canada but is a British citizen, had moved to South Africa from Chiswick. He was a frequent swimmer at the beach which had been closed earlier that morning because of shark sightings.

He was only fifty yards from the shore in shallow water shortly after noon , when eyewitnesses saw the shark approaching. Two local men who were whale-watching in their car shouted and waved at him but it was too late.

In a dramatic rescue, the men waded into the water and pulled Mr. Cohen to safety, despite the fact that the shark was still in the vicinity. The men used a belt and shorts from a wet-suit as a tourniquet which doctors say probably saved his life.

Paramedics managed to stabilise him before he was airlifted to hospital. Eyewitnesses captured video footage of the shark still in the water nearby after the attack.

Shark spotters employed by the local council told an official inquiry into the incident that they saw two great white sharks in the area at 9.15 a.m. and closed the beach . At 10.50 a.m. the sharks were spotted again and the beach was cleared of swimmers. At 12.25, a shark spotter saw a swimmer go into the water but when he tried to sound the alarm, because of a power failure the siren didn't sound. The shark spotters started to run to the swimmer but an eye witness saw the shark " casually" approach him.

" The shark approached from behind. ...lunged for him, shook him once, then let go. " he said.

The shark spotters told an inquiry that Mr. Cohen, who was single, was a regular swimmer at the beach and had been aware of the dangers .

An official report into the incident said " The victim was known to the shark spotters and had previously repeatedly ignored verbal warnings by the spotters to adhere to the shark warnings and beach closures". His car was in the main parking area of the beach where the shark warning flag was flying, they said.

The electricity company ESKOM said there was a two-hour power failure that morning.

Fish Hoek which is on the Indian Ocean side of Capetown, has warm water and is one of the city's most popular beaches. It is 1.5 kilometre long and is popular because it is protected from currents.

However the whole area known as False Bay is home to a high concentration of great white sharks who are attracted by the abundance of seals.

Mr. Cohen is recovering in hospital in Capetown where his condition is still critical , and members of his family are by his bedside.

September 30, 2011