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Teenager dies in suspected Australian river shark attack

A boat (C) cruises on Perth's Swan River with the Darling Ranges (top), 15 October 2006.

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The Swan River runs through Perth in Western Australia.
Photo: AFP

A 16-year-old girl has died after what is believed to be a shark attack in the Swan River south of Perth on Saturday afternoon.

Authorities were alerted to the incident, near the Fremantle Traffic Bridge in North Fremantle, at about 3pm.

Ambulances were sent to the scene and people were warned to stay out of the river.

Just before 6pm, WA Police confirmed the girl had died at the scene.

“The investigation is still ongoing, it is still very early stages, however all indications by witness accounts is that it appears to be a shark related incident,” Acting Inspector Paul Robinson said.

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

Police were told the girl had been riding jet skis with friends when she jumped in the water to swim near dolphins.

“The family weren’t there when this took place,” Acting Inspector Robinson said.

“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.

“I’m not going to go into the details of the injuries, it’s an extremely traumatic event for everyone involved and anyone who knew the young girl.

“This is a very traumatic incident and the family are absolutely devastated by the news.”

Acting Inspector Robinson said the Department of Fisheries had indicated it was unusual for a shark to be so far down the river.

‘True hero’ tried to save girl

A local resident said she heard children screaming and went out to see what was happening.

The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, said a man had dived into the water to help, describing him as a “true hero”.

She said the girl’s injury was “like nothing I’ve seen before”.

Nathan Vasta, a local resident, said he was “shaken up” after the incident.

“I swim here sometimes just off the bridge. It’s kind of haunting knowing that it could’ve been me,” he said.

“I heard someone’s leg got bitten, I didn’t really hear what her injuries were. I heard someone saying that it was a very deep cut.

“It’s pretty scary because I like being in the water and the river is quite local to me.”

The incident comes two years after Perth man Cameron Wrathall was severely injured by a bull shark while swimming in the Swan River in Bicton in January 2021.

Wrathall was on his morning swim from Bicton Jetty to Blackwall Reach with a friend when he was bitten, causing severe injury and massive bleeding.

Shark attacks in the Swan River are rare, with the incident involving Wrathall believed to be the first attack since the 1960s.


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