AUCKLAND: New Zealand police are unsure what kind of shark is responsible for the death of a man at an Auckland beach yesterday, even though they fired several shots at it.
The victim of the attack was a Muriwai man aged in his 40s.
Inspector Shawn Rutene said the man had been swimming alone from Maori Bay to Muriwai Beach, several hundred metres from the shore, about 1.30pm.
A surf-lifesaving boat chased away what is believed to have been a shark.
Inspector Rutene said the man’s wife and family were distraught. It took police and Muriwai lifeguards about 30minutes to recover the body as two sharks circled.
In a tragic twist, the three lifeguards recovering the body knew the victim.
Inspector Rutene said a police officer fired at the two sharks.
‘‘We don’t know whether he hit it, but it rolled off and disappeared.’’
Police were unable to confirm the species of shark, but the Department of Conservation said great whites had been spotted in the area as recently as the weekend.
Muriwai Surf Lifesaving chairman Tim Jago said the three lifeguards helping police, two in their 20 and one in his 40s, knew the victim.
Lifeguards were shocked by the size of the shark, he said.
‘‘No one has seen anything this big out here ever.’’
Beaches north of Manukau Harbour are closed for two days. Helicopters were to continue patrolling the area until this morning. The risk will be reassessed tomorrow.
The name of the deceased man would not be released until all next of kin were told.
Fisherman Pio Mose said he had seen a man swimming nearby.
‘‘All of a sudden ... we saw the shark fin and next minute, boom, attack him then blood everywhere on the water.’’
He called emergency services while his friend ran to get help.
‘‘He was still alive, he put his head up, we called him to swim over the rock to where we were. He raised his hand up, then ... we saw another attack pull him in the water.
‘‘He came back up, his head was on the water ... then we notice he was already dead.’’
Then he heard the police fire shots from the police helicopter and a few shots from the lifeguard boat.
‘‘I don’t know if they got the shark, killed the shark or not.’’
Wellington student Stef McCallum, 18, said she saw a police officer go out in a surf boat and shoot the shark.
‘‘He fired about 20 shots.’’
Earlier this week, surfer Bourne Nobel Buiski posted on Facebook about a ‘‘massive’’ shark spotted at Piha Beach, 14kilometres south of Muriwai. He said a local man ran out of the water ‘‘white-faced and terrified’’.
‘‘He was saying that a great white, a massive great white had just swum right beside him,’’ Mr Buiski said.
But no one believed him ‘‘as they [great whites] are so rare here’’.