A shark attack victim who died Tuesday morning in Australia’s Byron Bay had engaged in lighthearted banter about sharks just the day before his death with his worried mother back in Wales.
Paul Wilcox, a 50-year-old British expatriate living in Australia, spoke to his mother, Marie, by phone, telling her how much he enjoyed living in Byron Bay after moving there with his wife from Sydney, Australia’s largest metropolis.
But Wilcox, an avid swimmer, was a member of the Byron Bay Swim Club, and that concerned his 74-year-old mom, Marie.
“He was always careful and I would say to him, ‘Keep safe, Paul, you are so precious to me,” she told Britain’s Mirror newspaper. “He loved his swimming and he was in the water four or five times a week. He adored the sea. His wife loved to keep fit too, so they often went out together. She was at the beach when the tragedy happened, although I don’t think she saw what happened to Paul.”
To reassure his worried mother, Wilcox made light of the shark attack threat in Byron Bay.
“Of course, there’s the sharks,” Wilcox told his mother, laughing, in what wold turn out to be their final conversation. “They are very rare here, I’ve never seen one.”
Wilcox had relocated from the U.K. to Australia, at the age of 21, intending to stay just six months. But his stay turned into a “a lifetime adventure,” his mother said.
The shark attack occurred about 60 feet off shore at around 10:45 on Tuesday morning — about 5:45 p.m. on Monday evening United States Eastern Time.
A witness, Mark Hickey, said he believed the shark that killed Wilcox to be between six and seven feet long. Hickey tried to save Wilcox, but the swimmer who was bitten in the leg was already mortally wounded.
“I saw what looked like seaweed but it was blood in the water,” Hickey said. “I didn’t know it was a person but when I realized, I ran out and waded to the bank and grabbed him and did CPR but it was too late.”
Local authorities said they were trying to locate the shark that staged the fatal attack, and later on Tuesday (local time), searchers spotted a shark in the waters off Byron Bay. But because Great White Sharks are a protected species, there were no plans to kill the shark.
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