Mourning at Muriwai after fatal shark attack

By Anna Leask, Andrew Koubaridis


The still and serene morning at Muriwai Beach betrays nothing of the horror which occurred yesterday when a local man was attacked and killed by a shark.


Local iwi could be seen weeping while they prepared for a ceremony to cleanse the area where Adam Strange's body was pulled from the water.


Other locals carrying flowers have also made their way towards the beach.


A police helicopter has been flying low and slow over area where the attack occurred.


The beach, usually one of the region's most popular, is deserted, other than a large media contingent which has gathered on the sand dunes.


About 200 locals have started walking along a gravel road in a slow procession towards Muriwai beach.


UP TO 12 SHOTS FIRED


A policeman fired up to 12 shots at a killer shark in a bid to retrieve the body of a swimmer savaged at Muriwai yesterday.


Father-of-one Adam Strange, 46, was attacked by the shark, measuring at least 3m, just before 1.30pm.


Mr Strange, a television commercial director, was seen waving for help before other beachgoers realised what was happening in the water and called 111.


The Herald has learned that police received multiple calls, the first from a man on the rocks at the south end of Muriwai Beach.


A police source said it was possible up to three sharks, most likely great whites, had been feeding on fish and birds, and Mr Strange swam right into the middle of it.


The police Eagle helicopter spotted the shark while it was still attacking Mr Strange and stayed above until officers got to the beach.


One was sent out on the water in an inflatable rescue boat with three lifeguards.


It is understood that when the inflatable got to Mr Strange, the shark still had him in its grip. He was already dead.


The officer used a M4 Bushmaster rifle to shoot at the shark to get it to release the body.


At least one bullet struck the shark, which rolled away from Mr Strange and sank into the water. The source said the shark was killed, but as of last night it had not been located.


Mr Strange's body was pulled into the inflatable and taken to shore, where his wife, Meg, and other family were waiting.


Just before the attack, several hundred pupils of Glen Eden Intermediate were swimming nearby.


"Just after we got out of the water, the Westpac helicopter came over and then we saw the policeman get into the IRB," parent helper Tracy Howarth said last night.


Adam and Meg Strange married in 2011 and have a daughter, Indigo, 2.


Mrs Strange was not ready last night to speak about her husband's death.


But a family friend gave a brief statement to the Herald.


"The family are grieving the loss of a glorious and great father, husband and friend. We are in deep shock and are still trying to contact family who are overseas," he said.


Mr Strange's wife was being comforted last night by friends from the tight-knit Muriwai community, who converged on the house after learning of the tragedy. Many took flowers as expressions of their grief and their solidarity with the family.


On his website, Mr Strange said one of his short films, Aphrodite's Farm, set on a dairy farm in the 1930s, had been in 10 film festivals and last year won the Crystal Bear award for Best Short Film at the Berlin Film Festival.


He was also a finalist in the global Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and the London International Awards.


Mr Strange began making commercials in 1995 and was a director for Silver Screen Productions, in Auckland, for more than 10 years.


His work took him to Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, the United States and Europe.


In his biography, he described his love of the outdoors and spending time with his family.


"When I get a spare five minutes, I like to make a fruit smoothy, surf some big waves out on the west coast, point my skis down a mountain with Meg, haul my mountain bike up and down a few hills, drink some Pinot while scratching away at a film script."


The fatal attack was witnessed by a number of beach-goers.


Pio Mose was fishing with a group of men on the rocks when he saw the "huge" shark attack Mr Strange just 50m away. "All of a sudden there was blood everywhere."


Mr Mose said he saw Mr Strange struggle with the shark before it swam away. He was keeping his head above the water before the shark returned. "I yelled at him to swim to the rocks."


Mr Mose watched helplessly as the shark took Mr Strange's body out to sea, and when lifeguards arrived, he directed them to the group of sharks.


"It's awful - it's scary like a nightmare to me. All I was thinking was I wanted to jump in the water and help but I didn't want to get attacked by a shark too."


A resident who lives above Maori Bay saw the drama unfolding.


"Then I saw the IRB on the water and heard the explosions and saw water flying up. They were shooting at the shark in an effort to get it to release the body.


"There would have been up to 10 to a dozen shots fired - some in very quick succession."


Beaches on Auckland's west coast are closed until further notice.


SHARKS FREQUENT VISITORS


Sharks, including great whites, are "swimming around our coast all the time'', Kelly Tarltons' shark expert Craig Thorburn told TV3's Firstline.


"Some of the recent tagging work is showing they move from New Zealand to Australia and back and up to the islands and back down again, so we know they're constantly on the move."


He believed there was no doubt the shark who attacked Mr Strange was a great white.


"We don't really have any other sharks in New Zealand that would target anything as big as a person," he told Newstalk ZB.


However, sharks don't specifically seek people out and beachgoers had no reason to panic, he said.


"The main areas that we use on the beach, in the surf zone between the flags and all those sorts of things, that is very close to shore and I don't think those are the sorts of places where sharks are swimming through.


"So I think by chance the activities of the shark and this person have overlapped out there off that point.''


FACT BOX: FATAL SHARK ATTACKS


• The last possible death from a shark attack in New Zealand was in Whangamata in December 2009, when a capsized kayaker was bitten by what was thought to be a great white. A coroner ruled drowning was the cause of death and said it was unknown whether the kayaker was attacked before or after dying.


• The most recent confirmed fatal attack was in 1976, when a spearfisher was killed by what was thought to be a bronze whaler at Te Kaha in the Bay of Plenty.


• Fatal shark attacks are rare, with 15 fatal attacks since records began in 1837.


• Great white sharks are the most common killers. They are responsible for 11 of the fatal attacks in New Zealand in which the species has been identified.


• Other fatal attacks have been carried out by bronze whalers and mako sharks.


• Most victims were swimming, a quarter were snorkelling and the rest were either standing in shallows or surfing.


• Non-fatal shark attacks are relatively common in New Zealand, with one to two every year in recent years.


• Not all shark attacks are recorded. A total of 44 unprovoked non-fatal attacks have been recorded in the last 150 years.


Sources: Te Ara, Department of Conservation, Herald archives


A DECADE OF SHARK ATTACKS IN NZ


March 2012

Opunake, Taranaki

Auckland surfer Peter Garrett suffered a gash to his calf when he was bitten by a 1.2m to 1.5m shark, which could have been a bronze whaler.


April 2011

Snapper Point, Nelson

Nelson surfer Laine Hobson, 41, suffered a punctured hand when he was attacked by a 2m shark, thought to be a bronze whaler.


February 2010

Oreti Beach, Invercargill

Lydia Ward, 14, was attacked by a shark which ripped though her wetsuit, biting her hip, after she stepped on it. She fought it off with her boogie board. The shark was thought to be a broad-nosed sevengill.


December 2009

Clark Island, Whangamata

Ngaruawahia man Maurice Bede Philips, 24, died after a shark attack when his kayak capsized. A coroner found drowning was the cause of death, but he could have drowned either before or after he was attacked by a shark, identified as a great white from bite marks.


January 2009

Tukituki River mouth, near Hastings

Hastings nurse Greg Sims, 49, had a chunk of his leg ripped out by what was thought to be a broad-nosed sevengill shark. He fashioned a tourniquet from his towel to stop the bleeding.


December 2008

Maraetai Beach, Auckland

Ken Lindberg was savaged by a shark which attacked his ankle as he set a fishing net. He needed four stitches to repair his Achilles tendon and 10 stitches above his ankle. The shark was likely a bronze whaler.


December 2006

Raglan, Auckland

Ten-year-old Elliot Paerata-Reid, the son of broadcaster Melanie Reid, was bitten while surfing at Manu Bay. He suffered cuts to his foot which required stitches.


February 2004

Karitane, near Dunedin

Surfer Chris Blair, 14, punched a shark in the eye after it bit into his thigh while straddling his board about 100m offshore. He needed eight stitches. The shark was thought to be a broad-nosed sevengill.


February 2003

Bench Island, Foveaux Strait

Scuba diver Alistair Kerr, 44, was attacked by a mako shark as he was about to climb onto a boat. He suffered severe lacerations as the shark tore at him several times.


December 1999

Oreti Beach, Invercargill

Three Invercargill teenagers were attacked by a broad-nosed sevengill shark in the surf. It severed the ulna artery of 13-year-old Jenny McDowell's left arm, which was bit to the bone. It also bit the hand of Genna Hayward, 13, and the leg of Tim Wild, who suffered six puncture wounds.

- THE AUCKLANDER

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