Pro surfer Brett Connellan is in serious but stable condition at a Sydney hospital after he was mauled by a shark at Bombo Beach on Wednesday night.
According to reports, the 22-year-old Australian suffered injuries to his thigh and hand during the attack at Bombo Beach, about 75 miles south of Sydney. He was helped to shore by fellow surfer Joel Trist, who told reporters Thursday that he heard Connellan scream and quickly paddled out to him.
“I said to him: ‘What’s it like?’ and he said: ‘It’s not good.’ And at that point I knew something was horribly wrong,” Trist said, per the Associated Press.
Once safely on shore thanks to Trist, two beach-goers who were off-duty nurses applied a tourniquet made from a surfboard rope to his upper thigh.
“He had lost a large proportion of his left thigh, and the quad muscle was torn away right down to the bone,” ambulance supervisor Terry Morrow told the Sydney Morning Herald. “He could’ve bled to death before we arrived on scene. He was very lucky the members of the public were there and acted as they did. They saved his life, to tell you the truth.”
Connellan was taken by helicopter to St. George Hospital, where he is conscious and talking. One paramedic said he was “missing three quarters of his thigh,” according to a separate Sydney Morning Herald report.
Authorities will examine Connellan’s wounds to determine the type and size of shark that attacked him. Bystanders told the Sydney Morning Herald that seagulls were observed diving after bait fish at Bombo Beach on Wednesday afternoon. New South Wales Surf Life Saving spokeswoman Donna Wishart told the paper that “our recommendation is not to risk it” if there was evidence of these smaller fish in the water. Wishart added that shark bites are “still extremely rare.”
Via family friend Wayne Phillips, who is acting as his spokesman, Connellan said he hoped the attack would not lead to a shark hunt.
“Brett is surrounded by his very close friends and family and Brett has said that he knows the risks and respects surfing,” Phillips said, per the Sydney Morning News. “He’s been a surfer all his life and he doesn’t want this attack to result in a sort of shark hunt.”
Bomba Beach and other nearby beaches remained closed Thursday.
According to the Taronga conservation society, there were 22 unprovoked shark attacks in Australia in 2015, double the number from 2014 and nearly double the 10-year average of 13 per year. Fifteen of those 2015 attacks involved surfers or body-boarders, with one of them fatal.