By 3 News online staff with NZN
Lifeguards will search the ocean off West Auckland's beaches for any sign of sharks after a fatal attack off Muriwai Beach.
Adam Strange, 46, died after being attacked by a shark reportedly about 4m long during a swim at Muriwai Beach on Wednesday afternoon.
His family this morning held a karakia on the shoreline to remove the tapu from the beach.
Muriwai Beach has been closed since the attack and will remain so today and all of tomorrow for water activities.
It was earlier reported that all West Auckland beaches, including Piha, Karekare and Bethells Beach, would be closed.
However Muriwai Surf Club says Piha, North Piha and Bethells beaches are open.
"We will be doing aerial surveillance to see if there's any sign of the shark, but I've got to say we've got eyewitness confirmation that there were two sharks," Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service chairman Tim Jago said.
"It's just a case of trying to work out if they're staying in close to shore, whether they're heading north or south or whatever. We'll have lifeguards on those beaches from dawn."
Mr Strange, a local award-winning television and film director, was swimming 200m from the shore from north of Maori Bay to Muriwai at about 1:30pm when he was attacked.
More than one shark involved – witnesses
Fisherman Christian Rasmussen witnessed the attack, and said he saw more than one shark in the water.
“He was attacked in a circle,” Mr Rasmussen told Campbell Live.
“The whole surrounds [were] crimson red.”
Mr Rasmussen helped raised the alarm with emergency services.
“We waited for almost like an eternity to see the helicopter, it took a while,” he said.
Mr Strange was dead by the time lifeguards and police, one of whom was firing shots at the shark, reached him.
Inspector Shawn Rutene of Auckland police said it was unclear whether the officer hit the shark, but it had swum off and disappeared.
Another witness to the attack, Pio Mose, was also fishing on nearby rocks.
“Just about 15 metres away from [the rocks]… you saw the shark jump up,” he told Campbell Live.
“We saw about three or four sharks – there was more because of the blood."
Mr Mose was fishing with Tamali’i Senio, who said they had difficulty attracting attention from the beach.
“We are waving our hands from here to there – ‘need help’ – but nobody’s listening to us, nobody was giving us any help,” said Mr Senio.
The pair were frightened by the attack.
“We’re panicked, we’re nervous… that much blood on the water is something… I don’t want to see it again. It’s scary. Very scary,” said Mr Mose.
Victim was local man, father of one
Filmmaker Adam Strange (Photo: Supplied)
Mr Strange had a baby daughter with his wife Meg, who was being comforted by friends and neighbours at their Muriwai home yesterday, the New Zealand Herald reports.
Mr Jago said Mr Strange was known to a number of the lifeguards, who have been offered counselling and support.
"We spent a lot of time debriefing last evening as we always do after a critical incident of this type. They're pretty experienced guards. A couple of them are quite young, but they've packed a lot of lifeguarding into their five or six years of patrolling. They're pretty good… none of us are particularly happy about what went down obviously, but they pulled through. They'll all be on the beach again today, working," he told Firstline.
Mr Strange’s short film Aphrodite's Farm won a Crystal Bear award in 2009 at the Berlin Film Festival.
A rare attack
Shark deaths are uncommon in New Zealand, with Wednesday's incident the first confirmed shark attack fatality since 1976, and Mr Jago said large sharks were not often spotted near Muriwai.
"We know they're there, we sometimes see smaller ones, but to see something this size, to see two of them at this beach pretty close in is pretty unprecedented,” he said.
"[We’ve] spent quite a bit of time getting advice from international experts on what they would recommend or do in this kind of situation because nothing like this has happened in New Zealand for 40 years, we don't have anything in the textbooks to tell us what to do."
Mr Rasmussen, a regular visitor to the beach who has lived in West Auckland for 30 years, said he was shocked.
“We’ve never seen it before,” he said.
Expert advice has suggested the shark may have been a great white pointer, and Muriwai Lifeguards are hopeful that the shark has moved on.
"The experts say no fish out here grows bigger than that unless it's a great white pointer. In terms of its behaviour, they say they can swim up to 85km in a 24-hour period. They also say if it's been injured, it will depart the area where it sustained the injury. So in a sense we're quietly confident that it's no longer here – what we don't know is how seriously injured it was yesterday when shots were fired at it, or into it, and whether it's actually dead,” said Mr Jago
"They say that there are no records of great whites performing a repeat attack, in the same place, the next day or the next week, it just doesn't happen. I guess that's a little bit of comfort for us."