Sydney: A woman swimmer suffered serious injuries to her leg in a shark attack in Sydney Harbour and was taken to a hospital in a stable condition, authorities said on Tuesday. Lauren O’Neill, who is in her late 20s, was bitten on the right leg by a suspected bull shark in Elizabeth Bay around sunset on Monday, the Guardian reported.
Emergency services were called to a private wharf in Elizabeth Bay on Monday evening and found O’Neill, 29, with significant injuries to her leg and blood loss after being attacked by the bull shark, local media reported. A nearby veterinarian applied a tourniquet to stem the bleeding before the woman was rushed to the hospital in a critical condition.
Police said they had been told the woman was swimming off the wharf when the shark attacked her, after which she managed to drag herself to safety onto a nearby wharf. The incident happened about 20 metres (60 feet) off from the jetty, media reported, citing residents. O’Neill struggled to maintain consciousness as she suffered significant blood loss after the attack.
New South Wales state police said in a statement that the woman had been taken to hospital and was “in a stable condition.” It added that its marine command was patrolling the area as a precaution. The neighbours and the “hero vet” who helped O’Neill were also praised by senior New South Wales government ministers on Tuesday.
“I understand it was a vet who went and assisted that person, quite possibly saved their life. I also want to thank the paramedics and emergency service personnel as well as the staff at St Vincent’s who have literally performed a miracle overnight and kept this person alive,” said Health Minister Ryan Park.
Shark attacks in Sydney Harbour are rare but the area is known to be an important habitat for bull sharks and their young. “Shark bites are really rare … the last incident that occurred in Sydney Harbour was in 2009,” Amy Smoothey, senior shark scientist at the New South Wales Department of primary industries, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
In 2009, an Australian Navy clearance diver was mauled by a bull shark during a training exercise in the harbour. The attack tore off his arm and part of his leg. A swimmer at a Sydney beach died in 2022 after being attacked by what witnesses described as a 15-foot great white shark. It was Sydney’s first fatal shark attack since 1963.
Australia has more shark attacks than any other country except the US. There were 14 shark attacks in 2023, according to the Australian Shark-Incident Database, four of them fatal.
(with inputs from agencies)