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‘Hero’ vet praised as grim details emerge in Sydney shark attack

Vet who saved shark attack victim speaks out

A heroic vet and her neighbours are being praised for saving the life of a shark attack victim who dragged herself out of the water at a Sydney Harbour bay.

The woman, 29-year-old public servant Lauren O’Neill, was bitten on the right leg by a bull shark while swimming near a private jetty in Elizabeth Bay around sunset on Monday.

Michael Porter had just arrived home from work when he heard faint yells for help through his open window.

“It was horrifying, I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he told Nine’s Today program on Tuesday.

“Lauren, the victim, was trying to pull herself up off the side of the harbour pool, trying to get into the safe enclosure.

“Her leg was sort of trailing behind her – behind her was all red blood.

“The whole thing was totally surreal and I still haven’t processed it all, to be honest.”

Porter was quickly joined by several other neighbours, including a “hero” vet named Fiona, who applied tourniquets to stem the bleeding.

O’Neill’s significant wounds meant “blood was everywhere” and, while in little pain, she struggled to maintain consciousness before paramedics arrived and rushed her to nearby St Vincent’s Hospital for surgery.

She was in a stable condition on Tuesday morning. There were, however, multiple reports she may lose her leg.

“Fiona is a hero and I believe she saved her life,” Porter said.

“I’m not sure what would have happened [without her] but it wouldn’t have been good.”

Porter said O’Neill remained conscious throughout the ordeal.

“People were holding her hand and helping her. [She] was extremely brave the whole time and she was very lucid,” he said.

“She was talking and thanking us for getting the ambulance.”

The vet was also lauded by NSW Deputy Premier Prue Car as a “legend” and Health Minister Ryan Park for having “quite possibly saved [a] life”.

Park also thanked first responders and hospital staff who had “literally performed a miracle and kept [O’Neill] alive”.

An analysis of the bite pattern led government officials to positively identify the predator as a bull shark.

Shark bites in Sydney Harbour are extremely rare but the area is an important habitat for adult and sub-adult bull sharks.

“It’s likely bull sharks are coming from Queensland’s waters, into NSW and into Sydney in the summer and autumn months for foraging opportunities,” government shark scientific officer Amy Smoothey told the ABC.

Tagging and tracking of nearly 100 bull sharks since 2009 has shown they use all areas of the harbour from Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers to Middle and North Harbour.

They prefer water temperatures above 20 degrees, slightly deeper water during the day and shallower water at night and are more active at dawn and dusk.

People should take extra care in murky, dirty water, after high rainfall or floods, where lots of baitfish and diving birds are around and within one kilometre of a river, the NSW government says.

-with AAP

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