‘No one saw her waving’: Woman killed in first fatal shark attack in New Zealand in eight years

A woman has died in New Zealand’s first fatal shark attack in eight years, police said on Friday.

Emergency services responded late Thursday afternoon to reports of a woman “injured in the water,” at Waihi Beach, a popular tourist spot 153 kilometres drive southeast of Auckland, a police statement said.

The scene of the fatal shark attack. Credit:Stuff NZ

“Indications are that she had been injured by a shark,” Police Inspector Dean Anderson said.

Kaelah Marlow, 19, was dragged from the water with leg wounds and attempts to resuscitate her on the beach failed.

Kaelah Marlow, 19, from Hamilton, was the young woman who died after a shark attack. Credit:Stuff NZ

Ms Marlow, from Hamilton on New Zealand's North Island, was understood to have gotten into trouble at the beach while swimming.

Witness Amanda Gould told stuff.co.nz that she was swimming in waist-deep water when she saw Ms Marlow get separated from her friends, pulled out to deeper waters by a strong rip.

“We were in the water at the same time as the girl and her friends… they were about five metres in front of us, but they kept getting further and further out,” Gould said.

“She got separated from all her friends and was pulled really far out, beyond where the surfers would sit.”

Ms Gould said when she left the water, she saw Ms Marlow struggling.

“You could tell she was struggling because there is no way she would go that far out.
“No one saw her waving out, but I did hear a scream.”

Lifeguards came to Ms Marlow's aid, using a rescue boat to pull her from the water.

Witnesses said the victim was pulled out in a strong current before she was bitten by a shark, believed to be a great white. Credit:Stuff NZ

“It was so rough and every time they tried to push the boat out it kept coming back in.”

It wasn’t until the victim was pulled from the water, and taken to shore, that Ms Gould realised what happened.

“I thought there was another person out there, but the lifeguard said ‘no, that’s a shark, we need to get people out of the water’."

A vacationing doctor joined paramedics, lifeguards and emergency services personnel in attempting to save the woman, Inspector Anderson said.

“It was shocking, surreal, and we were all a bit freaked out…it keeps playing on my mind," Ms Gould said.

“I’m really sad for the girl and I feel for the family. It’s so shocking that someone’s life can be taken away just by that one event, one minute she’s swimming and the next she’s pulled out and then that happened. It’s quite dreadful.”

Stuff understands that the victim had bite wounds to at least one of her legs and that the shark involved was a great white.

A post-mortem, being carried on Friday, would provide police with a clearer understanding of what happened. However, the Coroner would ultimately determine the cause of death, Stuff reported.

Kina Scollay, a founding member of New Zealand's Great White Shark Project, said news of the attack was “absolutely terrible”.

“It’s a very rare thing. There’s plenty of sharks in the ocean not hunting people, it doesn’t happen very often.”

Scollay said at this time of year at Waihī Beach, there generally were a lot of sharks around the shallows, but they were almost exclusively sharks that were not likely to hurt people.

White sharks were also around coastlines at this time of year, he said.

“It is unusual. At this time of year thousands of people are swimming off that area. In general, you shouldn’t have to worry about sharks.

“It’s just so tragic. My thoughts are with the woman’s family.”

Waihī Beach is a coastal town with a population of about 2700 people. The main beach is 10 kilometres long, making it a popular spot for holidaymakers.

The last fatal shark attack in New Zealand was in February 2013 when a 46-year-old swimmer was mauled at Muriwai Beach, 41 kilometres west of Auckland.

Stuff, AP

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