Warren Smart

Friends of the spearfisherman killed by a Zambezi shark tried in vain to save his life by tying a rope around the top of his left leg to stop the bleeding.

They also did their best to keep 28-year-old Warren Smart calm as their skiboat, Dugout, raced for 40 minutes back to Cape Vidal beach on Saturday for medical help, said his friend, Andrew Mitchley, yesterday.

But Smart had lost too much blood in the water and during the trip back to the launch site.

He died while being treated by medics.

The tragedy happened at Leven Point, 23km north of Cape Vidal and 57km south of Sodwana.

Smart’s devastated father, Cecil, said his son had bought a ring and was to propose to his girlfriend, Chantelle Olivier.

Smart had been with Mitchley, and two other fishing friends - Trevor Hutton and skipper, Neil Myburg.

They had set out from Cape Vidal at 7am. The attack happened five hours later when Smart, Myburg and Mitchley were in the sea, while Hutton was in the boat. Visibility was good, said Mitchley.

Subdue

Smart had speared a king mackerel (couta) about 12m down and was in the process of bringing it to his hand to subdue it and get it off the spear.

But then the shark, which had been after the struggling fish, struck, biting Smart on the thigh.

“It all happened in a split second. Warren did not see the shark in time,” Mitchley recalled.

While Hutton pulled the bleeding Smart into the boat, the others swam back to the boat and they set course for Cape Vidal, calling a friend on the way to alert the medical teams.

“But by the time we pulled him into the boat, he had already lost so much blood from his artery,” said Mitchley.

About 40 minutes after the shark bit him on the thigh, they beached their ski vee at Cape Vidal.

“Ambulance services were already waiting for us and an air ambulance (the KZN-EMRS Red Cross AMS) arrived about five minutes later,” he said.

Medics tried to stabilise him but could not get a drip in because Smart’s veins had collapsed from a loss of blood.

Smart, of Richards Bay, slipped in and out of consciousness while medics worked on him, but he was declared dead an hour later.

Meanwhile, Mitchley had telephoned Olivier in Richards Bay to tell her of the incident and that the helicopter would be flying Smart to Richards Bay Hospital.

But then he had the horrible job of calling her back to say that her boyfriend of eight years had died.

Yesterday, Cecil said the family was devastated. It was something that was so unexpected.

The couple were expected to get engaged, his father said.

“Chantelle knew about it and they were going to get engaged when the time was right. She had just come out of hospital after an accident and he did not want to do it so soon after that.”

The victim’s website, which he regularly updated with fishing news, especially from Zululand and the region’s spearfishing club, tells how he had been an avid spearfisherman since 2007.

His father said that spearfishing was his youngest son’s life but that “it cost him”.

The fishing fraternity was shocked by the tragedy, said Mitchley.

“We are upset. Everyone knew Warren,” he said.

“If he had to go, then at least it was while he was spearfishing, while he was enjoying himself and not in something like an accident.”

Leven Point was on the southern edge of iSimangaliso Wilderness and was only accessible by boat, said Andrew Zaloumis, the chief executive of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority.

“In 30 years, this is the third fatal spearfisherman shark incident in iSimangaliso’s 230km-long coastline.

“We are saddened by this tragic loss,” Zaloumis said.

Smart was a mechanical engineer with his father’s design draughting project management company. - Daily News