5 December 2023

Cape York shark attack victim says he's lucky to be alive

| Matt Nicholls
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Paramedics transfer the 21-year-old man to Cairns Hospital. Picture: QAS

A 21-year-old man is lucky to be alive after he was attacked by a 1.8m bull shark off the coast of Cape York last week.

Matthew Davitt was airlifted from Clack Island to Cooktown and then transported to Cairns Hospital on Thursday for medical treatment to puncture wounds on his right arm.

He told 7NEWS he had been around sharks his whole life but “never had an issue with them.”

Mr Davitt was diving for sea cucumbers at Tydeman Reef and had spotted the bull shark while diving down.

However, he said the shark’s behaviour changed in a split second and “torpedoed” into him.

“Before I could even think, he’d done a somersault and smashed me on the arm … Just going ballistic, thrashing at it,” he told 7NEWS.

“He just torpedoed towards me and just latched on.

“I was like trying to push him away, trying to punch him.”

The helicopter approaches Clack Island to pick up the shark attack victim. Picture: QAS

The helicopter was sent around 11.30am, said critical flight paramedic Valerie Hurlblatt.

“He was in the water swimming next to a shark when it changed behaviour and it turned and attacked him,” she said in Cairns.

“It has bitten his right arm and he’s sustained non-life-threatening injuries to his right arm.”

She said he was helped out of the water and into a tender by the others who were with him.

“They’ve applied a temporary tourniquet and basic first aid, which has saved his life,” Ms Hurlblatt said.

“(It) stopped the bleeding, and (they) transferred him into the main boat he was on.

“He was actually in good spirits, considering – he was very grateful.”

Mr Davitt thanked his mates and the first responders.

“I’ve always been around sharks me whole life, never had an issue with them,” Davitt said.

“But this was just wrong place at the wrong time.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life.”

Ms Hurlblatt praised those who administered the initial first aid, saying he was “really lucky there was a tourniquet on hand”.

“That has definitely saved his life,” she said.

“It stemmed the bleeding enough to get him onto the main vessel.”

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