A woman has died after she was taken by a shark while swimming off the coast of New South Wales, Australia. Christine Armstrong, 63, was swimming with a group of five others when she was separated from the group and attacked by the shark. The incident occurred at about 8.20am on Thursday morning, about 320 feet from the shore. It was witnessed by swimmers in the water and people on the nearby wharf.
People at the scene reported seeing a 10-13 feet shark close to the surface of the water near the time of the attack. ‘We have got a number of witnesses who have all seen this incident occur and I’m fairly safe to say at this stage to say that a shark has taken her, Inspector Jason Edmunds from Bega Police told ABC radio.
Mrs Armstrong was a Tathra local, a keen swimmer and had been married to her husband Rob since the age of 19. Her family released a statement in which they said she had been loved by many people and would be sadly missed. ‘She has been swimming at Tathra Beach for 14 years and was an experienced and committed member of the surf club’, they said. ‘She was a senior surf club trainer for many years and swimming brought her much joy and many friends. ‘She will be sadly missed by all who loved her, especially by Rob, her husband of 44 years.’ Police have closed the beach while water police, rescue helicopters and surf lifesavers search the area for Mrs Armstrong’s body, or the shark.
Mrs Armstrong was part of a group of about 20 people who regularly completed the swim together. The five members of the group who had been swimming with Mrs Armstrong on Thursday morning are being treated for shock by ambulance members at the scene. ‘Naturally they are shocked and horrified by what has occurred,’ Inspector Edmunds said. The swim from Tathra Beach to Tathra Wharf is a popular one. Up to 600 people take part in the annual Tathra Wharf to Waves ocean swim each January.
The attack took place at what has always been considered a safe area. Locals have expressed their horror at the incident, saying that while sharks have occasionally been sighted in the area, they have never known of an attack. ‘It is a bit of a shock. I was down at the beach about 8am. I saw the swimmers go in and then I was up at the house when the helicopter went over,’ local resident Molly Carroll told the Bega District News.
Ms Carroll also commented there was ‘an eerie feeling’ in the holiday town. The incident follows reports from Western Australia that the remains of a diver who disappeared at the weekend had been recovered, but there was no immediate confirmation that a shark had been involved.
This is the second shark attack off the NSW coast within five months. Last November, 19-year-old Zac Young died at Campbell’s beach, north of Coffs Harbour after receiving a severe leg injury in an attack while riding his bodyboard. In that incident, a bull shark was involved. In 2008 Tathra Wharf was the scene of a tragedy when father Shane O’Neill drowned while trying to rescue his two young sons after they fell 15ft into rough seas.
By Kate Lyons
Original report: Here
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