Eastern Cape - An Austrian tourist was killed by a shark while swimming at a beach in the Eastern Cape, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said on Sunday.
The 72-year-old man was attacked on Saturday at Second Beach in Port St Johns, where he and his wife were part of a tour group, the institute said.
It did not name the victim.
It added that the species of shark involved in the incident was not immediately known.
In October, a man who was snorkelling was killed by a shark off the Eastern Cape coast.
On Saturday, lifeguards Siphosoxolo Njila, Sizwe Dusubana and William James jumped into the water to pull out the body of the tourist.
The man was part of a 15-member group, which included his wife who was swimming with him when the shark attacked.
It was her shrill screams that caught the attention of the lifeguards who were not on duty and had been enjoying a day on the beach.
Njila said he ran up to where the screams were coming from and saw the man being pushed into the air as the shark bit into the lower part of his body.
He said it was at about 2pm and the tide was just coming in.
The man had been waist deep in the water facing inland when the shark pounced. “He then turned around to face the shark and tried to hit it on the head, but its jaws were open and his arm fell right between its teeth and the arm was gone,” he said.
Dusubana said the man then tried to run, but fell.
The three, who are trained lifeguards but were not working as the municipality employs them only over the festive season, watched helplessly as the man fought for his life.
“He collapsed and the current started dragging him out to sea. His head was bobbing in and out of the water, and you could see that he was still alive and fighting, “said Njila.
They estimate that the man was alive for about 20 minutes after the attack, trying to swim to shore despite one arm being bitten off.
James said they had telephoned for help, trying to get a boat out to aid the man, but to no avail.
“We went out onto the street and stopped cars, asking if people had boats or jet skis.”
About an hour later, they were told the body was floating back to shore.
They climbed onto the sharp rocks and swam about 30 metres to grab the man. “We pulled him out of the water, trying not to hold him where he was bitten,” said James.
Neil Clayton and Amanda Weeidenburg, who own a lodge nearby, arrived.
Clayton covered the man with a sarong as a crowd gathered.
The tourist’s wife was so traumatised that her companions had to hold her back from going in after him. They ended up taking her back to the lodge where they were staying.
A worker at the lodge, who did not want to be named, said the victim’s wife had since locked herself in her room.
NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said its Port St Johns volunteer sea rescue duty crew said the body had been handed to the Eastern Cape Forensic Pathology Services.
Lambinon said the species of shark was not yet known, noting that the police had opened an inquest docket.
The Austrian consulate and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation had also been informed.
Since 2009, eight people had been fatally attacked by sharks on Port St John’s Second Beach.
In 2009, three local youths, Tshintsekile Nduva, Sikhanyiso Bangilizwe and Luyolo Mangele, were killed. In 2007, a shark fatally attacked Siyabulela Masiza, a life saver.
Masiza had previously been bitten on his calf in 2004 but had survived the incident.
The bodies of Masiza and Nduva were never recovered.
On Christmas Day, 2012, Liya Sibili, 22, from Ntsimbini, a rural village about 35km inland from Port St Johns, was taken by a shark in waist-deep water.
On January 15, 2012, Lungisani Msungubana was killed by a shark, exactly a year after Zama Ndamase, a provincial surfer, was killed.
Last March, 39-year-old Fundile Nodumla survived a shark attack at the same beach.
Cape Argus and Cape Times