Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: Scott Tingley

      Shark Takes Surfer off SA Beach

Monday, September 25, 2000

A surfer yesterday described his horror at witnessing a shark attack that killed a New Zealand man on his honeymoon at a South Australian beach.

Cameron Bayes, 25, was sitting on his surfboard waiting for a wave at world-renowned Cactus Beach when he was attacked about 7.30am by a four-to-five-metre-long shark.

Jeff Hunter, of Port Lincoln, who has surfed the beach for more than 25 years, was walking along the beach with his son when he saw the attack.

"He was paddling, sitting just out the back of the break line," he said.

Mr Hunter said he saw the shark - believed to be a white pointer - quickly circle Mr Bayes before knocking him into the water.

He said Mr Bayes appeared to recover and paddle a few metres back to shore but the shark attacked again and the surfer disappeared.

"It looked like more than one shark, there was so much action going on," Mr Hunter said. "It was just a blur of shark and thrashing water ... (then) we could see the thrashing going on under the water.

"It was just unbelievable. The shark was just totally going off ... there was no hesitation. There was just no hesitation."

He said he considered donning his wetsuit and paddling out on his own board to help, but had no time.

"It was over in five to six minutes," he said.

Parts of the surfboard were later recovered on the beach, which was immediately closed.

Mr Hunter said an ambulance was called to take Mr Bayes' distressed wife, Tina - also in her mid-20s - to Ceduna hospital, where she was being treated for shock.

She was at the camping ground and did not see the attack, he said.

"She was cut, man. It was horrendous," he said. "It sounds like he was a fun guy. They were talking about having kids."

Mr Hunter said other campers had rushed to console Ms Bayes, giving her warm drinks and packing up her camping gear.

He said the shark's "big white belly" gave away its identity as a white pointer.

"I have been surfing here for 25 years. I surfed at that very spot 20 times in the last week," he said. "It's just the best place to surf."

Ron Gates, who runs a camping ground at the secluded spot about 20 kilometres from the town of Penong, said the couple were only due to stay overnight. They were heading to Western Australia to do some sheep shearing, he said.

The beach is about 100 kilometres from Ceduna, near the start of the Nullarbor Plain, and about 1000 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. Its reputation for the "perfect wave" has attracted surfers from all over the world.

Mr Gates said Mr Bayes was the only surfer in the water at the time and there were only a small number of people at the beach. The day before, dozens of surfers had hit the waves, he said.

Mr Gates said it was likely a shark fisherman would be called to try to catch the shark, which he said looked like "the front of a station-wagon".

The only other white-pointer incident at the beach he could remember was a non-fatal attack in 1977.

Bronze whalers had also been spotted, but they were generally harmless, Mr Gates said.

"They're quite common," he said. "They're here all the time but they're not a problem."

Police searched for Mr Bayes' body yesterday as a report was being prepared for the coroner.

A police spokeswoman said police would conduct a beach search over a distance of five kilometres with the help of State Emergency Services workers from Ceduna and four-wheel-drive vehicles. She said the search would continue until darkness and resume today if necessary.

Copyright © The Age Company Ltd 2000

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