4.30pm: For a coastal region, full of surfers and beach-lovers, the Illawarra’s shark attack history is relatively unmarked by serious incidents.
Which is why many have already labelled Wednesday night’s incident – where Brett Connellan lost a large chunk of his left thigh at Bombo Beach– as the most serious in recent history.
Looking back through the archives the only shark encounter in Illawarra waters which comes close in severity to the 22-year-old’s harrowing experience was that of Ray Short, 50 years ago.
3.30pm: From his hospital bed, Kiama shark attack victim Brett Connellan has asked that his ordeal not be used as cause for a shark hunt.
11.45am: A surfer who paddled furiously towards his friend who had just been bitten by a shark at Bombo Beach has described how the seriously injured man told him in the water that his condition was "not good".
11.40am: Lindsay Lyon, the managing director of Shark Shield, said the average for shark attacks is just 6.6 a year – and that’s around the world.
“We give them lots of coverage but they’re rare. There are over 300 drownings at Australian beaches annually, but shark attacks are a rare occurrence.”
Bombo Beach shark attack. Mr Joel Trist, Marine Studies/Science teacher at Dapto HS is being applauded for his bravery. Proud of you Sir. Xx— Andrew FitzSimons (@andrew_fitz2811) March 31, 2016
11.10am: A NSW Fisheries boat will patrol Bombo Beach on Thursday, as authorities work to identify the shark responsible for an attack on a young surfer. The move comes as Kiama council lifeguards conduct jet-ski patrols in the water off the beach.
Bombo, Jones, Surf, Kendalls and Easts beaches have been closed and are expected to remain that way for at least another 24 hours.
10.38am: Joel Trist paddled straight out to his mate Brett Connellan in a bid to save him from a shark attack at Bombo Beach on Wednesday night.
Vision courtesy ABC News 24.
10.22am: All beaches in the Kiama council area are closed on Thursday morning, and are expected remain that way for at least another 24 hours, following Wednesday's shark attack at Bombo Beach.
More to come
Earlier: Beachgoers have been praised for saving a young surfer from bleeding to death after he was attacked by a shark at Bombo Beach on Wednesday night.
Brett Connellan, 22, from Kiama Downs was surfing off the northern end of the beach at about 7pm, when he was attacked about 100 metres off shore, police said.
He was assisted to the beach by a friend who reportedly heard him screaming from the water.
Ambulance NSW Illawarra district officer Inspector Terry Morrow said the quick actions of onlookers, who put an arterial tourniquet around his severed thigh, had saved his life.
Shark leaves surfer with serious injuries. Video: SMH
“He had lost a large proportion of his left thigh, and the quad muscle was torn away right down to the bone,” Insp Morrow said.
“He could’ve bled to death before we arrived on scene. He was very lucky the members of the public were there and acted as they did. They saved his life, to tell you the truth.”
After paramedics arrived, the ambulance rescue helicopter was flown from Bankstown to attend to the man.
He was given a blood transfusion and treated for pain on scene before being airlifted to St George Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
“He’s alive, well and stable, so I’d say he’s a very lucky young man and it’s a matter of now allowing surgeons to do what they do best,” Insp Morrow said.
As the dramatic scene unfolded on Wednesday night dozens of onlookers – mostly young men –gathered at the beach, visibily shaken by the evening’s events.
After the incident was reported, a number of Mercury readers said they had watched seagulls diving after bait fish at Bombo on Wednesday afternoon.
NSW Surf Life Saving spokeswoman Donna Wishart said “our recommendation is not to risk it” if there was evidence of these smaller fish around.
“Generally our recommendation has been that dawn and dusk can be risk periods, although in recent months there have been attacks outside these times,” she said.
She noted shark bites were “still extremely rare and it’s an incredibly low risk that you’ll ever come into contact with a shark”.
Ms Wishart said a beach where a shark attack had occurred would generally be closed for 24 hours.
She said unpatrolled Bombo Beach would likely be signposted by council lifeguards and volunteers on Thursday to alert swimmers of the attack.
“Department of Primary Industries experts will also be able to assess from the wound what size and species the shark is, and then we’ll go from there,” she said.
Crews from Kiama SES and Lake Illawarra Police also attended the incident.