Heartbreak over loss of ‘dear friend to many’ in shark attack

16-year-old shark attack victim identified

Heartbroken friends and family have been sharing their grief over the death of a ‘beautiful’ girl with an “infectious laugh” who was mauled in a rare shark attack in a Western Australian river.

16-year-old Stella Berry’s friends witnessed the horrifying tragedy unfold in the Swan River in North Fremantle on Saturday afternoon.

A family statement from Stella’s parents, Sophie and Matt Berry,  described her as a vibrant and happy girl, with plans of living in Europe after school.

“She had an infectious laugh which we couldn’t help laughing at too when we heard it”

“Our thoughts are with Stella’s many friends at this time,” the statement said.

Police said the teenager had been riding jet skis with friends when she spotted a pod of dolphins near the old Fremantle traffic bridge about 3.20pm.

“They were on jet skis. There was possibly a pod of dolphins seen nearby and the young female jumped in the water to swim nearby the dolphins,” WA Police Acting Inspector Paul Robinson said.

“The family weren’t there when this took place, however her friends were – and as you can imagine, this is an extremely traumatic incident for anyone to witness. So obviously we’re offering counselling services to anyone who did witness it or is affected by the incident.

“It’s an extremely traumatic event for everyone involved and everyone who knew the young girl, so I won’t be going into the extent of the injuries,” he said.

Police scour the Swan River after the shocking tragedy. Photo: 7NEWS screenshot

Acting Inspector Robinson said it was “unusual for a shark to be that far down the river”.

“I’ve spoken to fisheries and water police and unfortunately we have no idea what type of shark it is,” he said.

Acting Inspector Robinson said Stella was pulled from the water, with media reporting a man was being hailed a ‘hero’ for jumping into the water to try to save her.

Witnesses described the victim’s injuries, which were so horrific that emergency services who rushed to the scene were unable to revive her.

Floral tributes have been left along the riverbank at the scene.

Media said this man had jumped into the water to try and save the 16-year-old girl. Photo: 7NEWS

The shocking incident was the first fatal shark attack in the river in almost 100 years and considered unusual for sharks to be that far down.

On January 31, 1923, a 13-year-old student, Charles Robinson, was bitten on the leg while swimming near his school’s boat shed at Freshwater Bay.

The most recent shark-related incident happened on January 2021 when swimmer Cameron Wrathall was attacked near Blackwall Reach by a suspected 2-3 metre bull shark.

Police have asked anyone who witnessed the event to contact them.

Fremantle detectives will prepare a report for the coroner.

— with AAP

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