Don’t post shark sightings on social media, authorities plead

Sarah Williams was shaken but escaped with only cuts and bruises.

Sarah Williams was shaken but escaped with only cuts and bruises. Photo: ABC

Surf life saving authorities have urged beachgoers who spot sharks to notify emergency authorities as a priority, before posting pictures on social media.

The warning comes after a number of shark sightings in the past week, including a very close encounter on Sunday involving 15-year-old high school student Sarah Williams on a kayak near Normanville.

Surf Lifesaving SA spokesman Ben Lawrence said while those involved with Sarah’s incident did the right thing, the encounter served as a timely reminder to encourage people to report sightings to authorities – not on Facebook.

“If it’s posing an immediate threat, notify the police on triple-0,” Mr Lawrence said.

“They can then activate us.

“We don’t want to see people taking pictures and not actually doing anything.”

Sarah said she predicted it would be a while until she was back in the water, after she was launched into the air and then the water when a 4.5-metre shark attacked her kayak on Sunday afternoon.

“Very lucky, [I’m] surprised I got out,” Sarah said.

“They were saying how close I was and that could have been me losing a leg or me losing my life.”

The Williams family had been fishing for squid at the time of the attack.

Sarah’s brother Mitchell Williams watched the terrifying event unfold.

“It was like something out of a shark movie, just the speed that it hit her,” he said.

“It was like a car had hit her out of the water and then the kayak was launched, and then she was launched out of it into the water.”

Family calls for cull of ‘aggressive’ shark

Sarah managed to climb back onto the kayak but the shark attacked a second time.

“If anything changed she would have lost legs or her life … as he made his second approach and that’s when he locked onto the back maybe 10 centimetres away from her legs and aggressively shook the kayak,” Mitchell said.

Thankfully Mitchell and Sarah’s father Chris were in a motorboat and managed to pull the high school student from the water.

“We made our approach and sort of run the boat into the shark and the kayak and then pulled Sarah … over the shark to get her out of the water,” Mitchell said.

Shark attack

Sarah Williams was thrown into the water when her kayak was attacked by a shark. Photo: ABC

Still shaken by the ordeal, the family is grateful that Sarah escaped with only a few scratches and bruises.

Sarah’s father has called for the shark to be located and culled.

He said he believed it was an aggressive rogue shark that could attack again.

“What scared me the most was the velocity of how that shark attacked, something totally unprovoked,” Mr Williams said.

“Unfortunately this shark will probably kill someone before they do something.”

Premier, authorities warn against cull

But Premier Jay Weatherill said he did not want to make a knee-jerk response.

“The question of culls is a complex one,” he said.

“It’s difficult to create a system of culling which doesn’t implicate other species such as turtles, dolphins and other marine animals.

“Beach level sightings are rare here in South Australia, we do ask people to keep giving us that information so that we can keep people safe.”

Williams family shark attack

Chris, Mitchell and Sarah Williams show how the shark attacked Sarah’s kayak. Photo: ABC

Surf Life Saving SA stands strongly against shark culls.

“You don’t normally see that type of action with sharks,” Mr Lawrence said.

“We don’t wish to cull sharks.

“They’re an important part of our marine environment… our guidance is around providing patrols and surveillance to ensure we keep people safe.”


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