Man dies in third shark attack off Australian island in seven weeks

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A shark has killed a man in an island harbour on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef where two tourists were mauled on consecutive days in September.

The 33-year-old victim was among 10 friends who set out from Airlie Beach on the Queensland state mainland aboard a rented yacht for a five-day cruise through the idyllic Whitsunday Islands, police inspector Steve O’Connell said.

They anchored 14 miles from Airlie Beach in Cid Harbour, intending to spend their first night in the popular, protected anchorage on Whitsunday Island, the uninhabited largest island in the group.

The victim was taking turns with a woman on a paddle board in the harbour on Monday afternoon. He had dived into the water to give the woman her turn on the board when he was attacked, Mr O’Connell said.

There were more than a dozen yachts in the harbour at the time. French-speaking tourists launched a dinghy from their yacht and rescued the man.

They brought him to his own yacht, where most of the group had medical backgrounds, including two doctors.

“Despite their best efforts, the injuries were too severe,” Mr O’Connell told reporters.

The victim was taken by helicopter to the Mackay Base Hospital, 60 miles to the south, where he died.

“CPR was ongoing for a very long time and every solid effort was made to save that man’s life,” Mr O’Connell said.

“They did everything imaginable to try to save the man. It’s just – the injuries were so severe,” he added.

The attacks have left authorities struggling to explain an apparent escalation in danger in the internationally-renowned holiday destination.

A 46-year-old tourist, Justine Barwick, is recovering after she was attacked on September 19 while swimming from a yacht in Cid Harbour.

A 12-year-old girl, Hannah Papps, was attacked in the same harbour while swimming from a yacht the next day, losing a leg.

The last shark attack in the Whitsunday Islands before the latest spate took place on February 13 2010, off Dent Island, where 60-year-old tourist Patricia Trumbull survived lacerations and major blood loss.

Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, which represents more than 3,000 tourism businesses, said authorities were methodically examining why the unprecedented series of attacks had occurred and whether environmental changes are a factor.

He said: “We need to now have the scientific background and investigation of what is causing this sudden spike of attacks and interactions with sharks. We simply do not know why this is occurring and what is responsible for it.”

The species of sharks involved in the attacks have not been identified.

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