Adam Strange, a 46-year-old filmmaker, was swimming about 650 feet off Muriwai Beach on Wednesday afternoon when witnesses on shore saw the attack by what authorities estimate was a 12- to 14-foot great white.
New Zealand news website stuff.co.nz quotes fisherman Pio Mose as saying that he saw Strange swimming nearby when “all of a sudden … we saw the shark fin, and next minute, boom, attack him then blood everywhere on the water.”
Mose says he called emergency services while his friend ran to get help.
The swimmer “was still alive, he put his head up, we called him to swim over the rock to where we were,” Mose said. “He raised his hand up, and then while he was rising his hand up, we saw another attack pull him in the water.”
Police were dispatched to the scene and fired on the shark from an inflatable boat, authorities said.
The shark “rolled over and disappeared,” police inspector Shawn Rutene said.
Strange was a filmmaker and The New Zealand Herald, quoting a bio on his website, says one of his short films had been in 10 international film festivals and had won an award for Best Short Film at the Berlin Film Festival.
In the bio, Strange described his love of the outdoors, saying, “When I get a spare five minutes, I like to make a fruit smoothy [and] surf some big waves out on the West Coast …”
There have been only 14 known fatal shark attacks in New Zealand since records began around 1937, says Clinton Duffy, a shark expert at the country’s Department of Conservation.
“In the last 20 years we have been averaging two shark incidents, where the shark actually bites someone, a year.”
“Those are generally on swimmers and generally result in fairly superficial flesh wounds,” Duffy said.
Duffy said the last death was in 2009, when a kayaker was mauled by a great white, but it’s not clear whether he had drowned prior to the attack. Before that, the last death was in 1976.