Dramatic details of surfer Darren Mills' lucky escape from a shark attack emerged yesterday, as the British immigrant began his recovery from serious injuries.
Friends gathered at the hospital bed of the 28-year-old after he was flown by rescue helicopter to Southland Hospital. The shark attacked him at Porpoise Bay, in the Catlins area of eastern Southland, on Friday evening, but he punched it away.
Mills suffered three deep gashes between his thigh and his calf as the shark, believed to be a sevengill, latched on to his leg while he sat on his surfboard 50m offshore.
A Southland Hospital duty manager said Mills, who has lived in Queenstown for several years but is from the English town of Crawley, was in a satisfactory condition last night. He was not well enough to speak to the media.
Mills had posted a video of himself on Facebook riding inside a motorised submersible toy shark as it leaped and dived across Lake Wakatipu just 12 days before the attack. The video was for a "James Bond for a day" tourism promotion.
"We [did] some crazy jumps, it's a crazy feeling under the water," he says in the clip.
Catlins Surf School owner Nick Smart was surfing about 100m from Mills when the shark attacked. A holidaying off-duty doctor and nurse came to Mills' aid before emergency services arrived.
"The doctor told me [Mills said he] was sitting on the board and the shark bit his leg, so he punched it. He managed to stay on his board and catch a wave in ... you could see blood, and he was definitely in a bit of pain."
Mills was conscious as his partner sat with him telling him he would be all right, while several friends watched, Smart said.
"He was pale, but he had all his friends around."
Mills' surfboard had bite marks in it, which had been used to estimate the shark at 2m to 3m long.