A vacationing Australian man fell victim to a shark attack while kitesurfing in New Caledonia earlier this week, passing away as a result of injuries he sustained from his encounter with the marine predator.
David Jewell, a 50-year-old man who hailed from near Perth in Western Australia, according to CBS News, arrived in the French island territory on Sunday, ostensibly for a trip set to last 10 days. While there, he booked a cruise aboard a sailing yacht, during which he planned to engage in a round of kitesurfing. While pursuing that activity in a large lagoon near the northwestern town of Koumac on Tuesday, he found himself face-to-face with the animal that would place him in mortal danger.
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According to Nicolas Renaud, the director of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center, the crew of the yacht witnessed the shark attack first hand. After Jewell fell from his board into the lagoon, the shark bit into his right thigh, leaving a serious wound. The crew were able to drag him back aboard the boat, calling for rescuers while administering whatever first aid they could. Jewell’s injuries caused him to suffer a heart attack, however, and despite the fact that the crew set sail for the port at Koumac, Renaud noted that they were unable to win their race against time.
“They tried to save him, to give him a heart massage, but it was too late.”
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The lagoon in which the attack took place is unusually large, and sharks are commonly known to pass through the area. According to Renaud, the victim was near a sheltering reef and far from the nearest shore when the attack happened, leaving him at a critical disadvantage.
“We can’t stop sharks entering the lagoon. He was just in a bad place at a bad time.”
Despite witnessing the attack, the boat’s crew was not readily able to identify the species of shark responsible, though they did recall that it was a large shark. There have so far been four shark attacks this year in New Caledonia, a French territory which is located in the South Pacific. The islands are home to some 275,000 people, as Time notes, and are regarded as a major scuba diving destination. The area is known for its lagoon, which,at 24,000 square km, ranks among the largest in the world.
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Last year marked a record number of shark attacks worldwide, yet these incidents remain exceedingly rare. As CNN notes, the International Shark Attack File reported that 2015 saw 98 unprovoked shark attacks, which far exceeded the previous year (by 26 such reports). When compared to data from one decade in the past, the difference becomes even more pronounced; 2005 saw 40 less shark attacks worldwide than 2015.
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Despite the unusually high number of attacks, only a handful proved to be fatal. Just six people lost their lives to sharks last year, and the International Shark Attack File pointed out that it is unlikely the predators are becoming more aggressive or growing in number.
“The numerical growth in human-shark interactions does not necessarily mean there is an increase in the rate of shark attacks. It most likely is a function of the growing human population.”
Whatever the reasons behind 2015’s notable increase in shark attacks, Renaud noted that for the loved ones of New Caledonia’s most recent victim, the experience was “tragic” and “very sad.”