A Briton was last night in a critical condition after losing both his legs in a shark attack.
Witnesses said the man, named as Michael Cohen, had gone swimming despite warnings that a shark was circling close to the beach in Cape Town.
The 43-year-old is said to have swum regularly at Fish Hoek beach, notorious for Great White sightings, even telling fellow beachgoers: "If a shark takes me, then blame me, not the shark."
Witnesses said he parked his car and then walked right past a flag indicating that the beach was closed. At least two people warned him that a shark had been seen, but he strode into the water anyway.
Tracy Sassen, a former South African surfing champion, watched as Mr Cohen was taken by the 10ft Great White only a few yards from the beach.
"I saw two swimmers in the sea, even though the beach was closed," she said.
"I saw a burst of water and thought it was a seal taking a fish or something. Then people started rushing into the sea and pulling this guy out of the water. He was moaning and crying and pleading with them, "Please help me, please help me".
"He was very white and in shock. Half of one leg was missing and the ankle on the other leg was badly bitten."
Monwabisi Sikweyiya, one of the shark-spotters who guards the bay each day, helped drag Mr Cohen from the water and used his own shorts and belt as tourniquets.
He said of the victim: "He was very interested in sharks and respected them, but never took any notice of our warnings.
"We warned him often that he was taking a risk, but he always said 'If a shark takes me, then blame me, not the shark'."
The shark remained in the bay for some time after the attack and the beach will remain closed indefinitely. Sharks have claimed a number of swimmers and surfers there in recent years.
Last night Mr Cohen was expected to undergo at least six hours of surgery in Cape Town for very serious injuries. It is believed the keen swimmer, who is single, was born in Canada but holds a British passport and spent several years living in the UK before moving to South Africa.
The latest incident comes just weeks after British honeymooner Ian Redmond, 30, was killed by a shark as his bride watched him snorkelling in the Seychelles.