A surfer remains missing after he was involved in a shark attack at a popular Western Australian beach on Friday, authorities said.
The victim, believed to be an adult male, was surfing at Kelp Beds Beach in Esperance around 10:45 a.m. on Friday when the incident occurred, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) said in a statement.
Authorities said the man’s surfboard has been recovered from the water, but he is still missing.
Sen. Sgt. Justin Tarasinski told WA Today that the washed-up surfboard showed “obvious signs” of a shark attack.
“The family [of the victim] are aware. They are absolutely devastated,” he said, adding that the surfer’s family is “well-known here in town.”
Tarasinski told the Guardian that there were approximately six to eight surfers in the water and several bystanders on the beach who all witnessed the attack.
WA Premier Mark McGowan told the outlet that another surfer tried to no avail to pull the victim away from the shark.
“Unfortunately, he hasn’t been recovered at this point in time,” McGowan said. “It’s a very, very difficult and potentially tragic situation happening in Esperance.”
Witness Sammy Bamford told WA Today that he was surfing when he noticed a shark he estimated to be between 8 and 9 feet long.
“I called out to [my partner] to get out, and next minute we had [ambulances] fly past us,” he said.
Authorities said that a marine search and rescue operation is ongoing, and that all nearby beaches have been closed. DPRID fisheries have been working with local authorities to coordinate responses, and vessels on the water and drones are being used to help search.
The incident occurred three years after 17-year-old Laeticia Brouwer was killed by a shark on the very same beach.
“Our thoughts are for the family involved. We are okay,” her dad Leon told 7 News Australia. “It does bring back pain, of course, but we really feel for the Esperance community again.”
McGowan told the outlet that Western Australia’s south coast, especially near Kelp Beds Beach, is a known breeding ground for great white sharks.
Though no fatal shark attacks were reported in Australia in 2019, there have been at least six this year, according to the Australian Shark Attack File at the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, per CNN.
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