The former US navy divemaster arrived on the mainland without a pulse before he was flown to the nearest hospital for lifesaving surgery.
A former US Navy divemaster, who helped save the life of a fellow fisherman three years ago, is fighting for his life in a north Queensland hospital after he was attacked by a shark.
Richard Bettua, 59, was taken into surgery at Townsville University Hospital on Sunday night after he was bitten on the upper thigh by a bull shark while spearfishing at the Great Barrier Reef about midday.
By the time he was transported back to the mainland, he had no pulse and it took emergency services more than half an hour to stabilise the South Mission Beach man on Sunday, a police spokesman said.
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The attack took place at Britomart Reef at Lucinda, 120km north of Townsville, and he was transported back to Dungeness boat ramp where he was met with a rescue helicopter and paramedics before he was flown in a critical condition.
Bettua had a previous run-in with a shark, after he helped saved the life of Glenn Dickson, who lost his leg in a similar spearfishing incident three years ago.
Bettua's brother John asked fellow spearfishers in the Tampa Bay Spearfishing Facebook group to "keep Rick in your prayers as he goes thru surgery. Thank you".
Another spearfisher and friend, Roger Yazbeck, wrote at 3am AEST: "John Bettua just called me to inform me that his brother Rick was attacked by a bull shark yesterday. He is now in an induced coma awaiting a major surgery to save his life. I ask everyone in our community to pray for the Bettua family."