Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Woman dies from attack by sharks

AP , SYDNEY

Police walk past a ``beach closed'' sign on a beach at Amity Point, off Queensland's North Stradbroke Island, yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Up to three sharks may have been involved in the fatal attack on a woman off an island in eastern Australia, police said yesterday.

Sarah Whiley, 21, died late on Saturday of severe injuries after being attacked near North Stradbroke Island, east of the Queensland state capital Brisbane.

Queensland police inspector Peter Harding said Whiley was swimming with a group of friends from a church group when she was pulled underwater for about five seconds then emerged and called out "Shark!"

"Of course people at the time thought she was only joking ... until they saw the blood," he told reporters yesterday.

Harding said officers were searching for the sharks and had closed several nearby beaches.

"If we found them [the sharks] I suppose we would try to retrieve them and see if they have any body parts," Harding said. "The idea is to retrieve what we can."

Whiley was airlifted to a Brisbane hospital where she had to have both arms amputated just below the elbow, according to Queensland Rescue Helicopter spokeswoman Helen Anderson. Wiley also suffered deep wounds to her legs and torso, Anderson said.

Harding said the severity of Whiley's injuries indicated she may have been attacked by a group of bull sharks, a species known for aggressive behavior this time of year.

"She was bleeding quite heavily ... [from] what I've seen and what I've been told, there was more than one shark involved, there could have been up to three," Harding said.

Contrary to earlier reports, Harding said there was no dog with the woman at the time. Swimming with animals could bring on a shark attack, Australian shark expert Andrew Fox told Sky News earlier.

Harding added the woman was swimming in water "anything from chest-deep to 30 feet [9m]."

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