Neighbours saved my life, Sydney shark victim says

Shark attack saviour speaks out

The young woman lucky to survive a gruesome shark attack in Sydney harbour has given a statement from her hospital bed, revealing she was just “taking a short dip” when she was bitten.

Public servant Lauren O’Neill, 29, was badly wounded after being bitten on the leg while swimming near a jetty at Elizabeth Bay, in the city’s eastern suburbs, at dusk on Monday.

She was saved by multiple neighbours, who rushed to her aid after hearing her screams for help.

“[O’Neill] wishes to thank her heroic and very kind neighbours for the critical assistance they provided her,” the statement from St Vincent’s Health Australia on Wednesday said.

“Lauren is also immensely grateful to the NSW Ambulance paramedics and Kings Cross Police for their swift and caring actions at the scene.”

O’Neill said a full recovery was “likely”, due to the quick response from emergency services, bystanders and hospital staff. There had been initial fears she might lose a leg after Monday’s attack.

She thanked the specialist surgical teams who worked through the night after she arrived at St Vincent’s Hospital. She also thanked her “beautiful family, friends and colleagues” for their care and support.

“She would also like to thank the public for their outpouring of support and kindness, and as she turns to focusing on her recovery, asks that her privacy, and that of her family’s be respected,” the statement said.

O’Neill has undergone surgery and has been moved out of intensive care and into a ward to recover.

She was a regular swimmer and kayaker in the bay near her Elizabeth Bay home, and expected Monday night’s dip to be just like many others. Instead she was pulled from the water in shock and covered in blood.

One neighbour who rushed to her aid and who has been credited with helping to save O’Neill’s life was vet Fiona Crago.

“I just focused on what I had to do, which was to stem the blood flow and bandage the leg as best I could with what I had,” Crago told Ten News on Tuesday.

“My neighbours were amazing, everyone just kept talking to her and reassuring her until the paramedics arrived.”

By coincidence, Crago’s wife had purchased compression bandages earlier on Monday, which she used to make a tourniquet.

“[O’Neill] was so brave, she was so polite, she was saying ‘thank you’ to people,” Crago said.

“I’m in no way heroic, I just did my job and what I’m trained to do and everyone else rendered whatever assistance they could.”

But neighbour Michael Porter, who also rushed to help, said it would have been a different outcome had Crago not been there.

“Fiona is a hero and I believe she saved her life,” he told Nine’s Today show.

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

The incident was the first serious attack inside the harbour since 2009, when navy diver Paul de Gelder lost his right leg and hand to a bull shark.

It has prompted debate about the need for more anti-shark measures, including extra netted harbour pools, in order to protect swimmers.

But more shark nets in and around Sydney Harbour would not end attacks, NSW Premier Chris Minns said on Wednesday.

While the number of sharks in Sydney’s estuaries was on the rise, the amount of attacks had not increased, he said.

“We do have to be vigilant in relation to this but we don’t have a program to net off Sydney Harbour,” he said.

“We can’t be in a situation – even on Sydney’s big public city beaches – where we can provide a 100 per cent guarantee of having a swimming area that is devoid of ocean life. You just can’t do it.”

Locals have called for a public enclosed swimming area to be created at Beare Park, near the scene of the attack at Elizabeth Bay.

But plans to build the pool were put on hold by the City of Sydney council last year amid water-quality concerns.

Shark nets and smart drumlines are used along some ocean beaches, but not at sites within Sydney Harbour.

“Even the shark nets that we’ve rolled out at Cronulla, Maroubra, Bondi and the northern beaches don’t cover the entire spectrum of the ocean – they only provide limited protection,” Minns said.

Warnings from surf lifesavers and drone technology would be the prevailing shark attack prevention strategies going forward, he said.

Shark researchers say there are likely more bull sharks in Sydney Harbour due to warmer water temperatures and the city’s population growing, making encounters with humans more likely.

Sydney University shark policy expert Christopher Pepin-Neff said sharks engaged with their environment mainly by using their teeth, which could lead to them biting unfamiliar creatures.

-with AAP

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