The family of a teenager who died after being mauled by a shark off Western Australia’s south coast while surfing says they are heartbroken, but take some comfort knowing she died doing something she loved.
Laeticia Maree Brouwer was surfing with her father at Kelp Beds at Wylie Bay, just a few kilometres from Esperance, about 4pm local time on Monday when she was attacked.
Family spokesman Steve Evans read a statement to the media at a conference in Esperance, saying Laeticia’s death had left the family heartbroken.
“Laeticia will be greatly missed by her family, friends and everyone who knew her,” he said.
“We can take some comfort that Laeticia died doing something that she loved.
“The ocean was her, and her family’s passion. Surfing was something that she treasured doing with her dad and her sisters.”
Esperance police acting Senior Sergeant Ben Jeffes described the teenager’s death as an absolute tragedy.
He said Laeticia’s father did everything he could to save his daughter’s life.
“Father and daughter were surfing out at where the waves are breaking and that’s where the attack occurred, and the father obviously tried everything he could to help his daughter but sadly he wasn’t able to save her,” he said.
“He’s brought her to shore and then the family have contacted emergency services.”
Nurse, parents gave teenager CPR
St John Ambulance said paramedics arrived on the scene 19 minutes after they were called, but the teenager’s injuries were severe.
Among those to arrive was Paul Gaughan – who helped save the life of surfer Sean Pollard after he was attacked by a shark in the same area in October 2014.
“Yesterday’s incident was a real traumatic event for everyone … you just do what you can, but we were working really against difficult circumstances,” Mr Gaughan said.
“When I arrived there was a nurse there with other people and of course the mother and father who were helping with CPR.
“It was quite a critical incident long before I arrived.”
Mr Gaughan said those on the scene had done everything possible to save Laeticia’s life.
“It really gave the young girl every possible chance under such dire circumstances for a positive outcome, unfortunately in this case though her injuries were just too severe,” he said.
“When it’s such a young person with their life ahead of them, it’s just really tragic.”
Senior Sergeant Jeffes said the emergency response had been swift.
“We’re very well equipped at this location, we’re very used to dealing with beach access, beach emergencies and so we have four-wheel drive ambulances, emergency vehicles across all of our emergency services so … the sand didn’t slow us down or present any unusual problems for this incident,” he said.
He asked for anyone who witnessed the attack to come forward.
White pointer likely responsible
The state government has confirmed drum lines were not deployed following the attack to try to catch the shark, saying it was too late in the day on Monday to do so and the beach remained closed.
The government is reviewing the “serious threat” guidelines established by the Barnett government and hopes to announce its policy in the coming weeks.
But Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said drum lines should have been used.
Department of Fisheries spokesman Russell Adams said it was likely a great white was responsible.
“Researchers have had a look at the photo of the surfboard and on that basis alone they can’t tell what sort of shark it is,” he said.
“Since 2000 all fatal attacks in WA have been caused by great whites, so you could assume safely it was a great white.
“But we can’t say for sure.”
He said shark sightings were not uncommon in the area, but there was no research to suggest it was more dangerous to swim or surf there, than at other WA locations.
There have been 15 fatal shark attacks in WA since 2000.
Marc Payne is a seasoned abalone diver in Esperance and said the number of great white sharks in the area had grown.
“I’ve had quite an increase in interactions with white sharks of around about 200 per cent in the past three decades,” he said.
“Most of the interactions I’m getting are from the smaller size juvenile and teenage type animals.”