Feb. 16 (UPI) — A man in Sydney on Wednesday was fatally attacked by a shark estimated to be up to 16 feet long, according to local authorities.
The attack launched a search for the animal via drone and jet ski on Thursday as 15 miles of beach surrounding the attack site remain closed to the public.
Emergency services responded to a call around 4:35 p.m. Wednesday that a swimmer had been attacked by a shark near the rocks off Little Bay Beach just south of Sydney, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Officers from the Eastern Beaches Police Area Command of the New South Wales Police located human remains in the water at 6 p.m. They were assisted by personnel from the Marine Area Command and Surf Life Saving NSW, according to a press release from the department.
The man’s name is being withheld from the public. Authorities have contacted his next-of-kin.
“Unfortunately, this person had suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of the attack and there was nothing paramedics could do when we arrived on scene,” NSW Ambulance inspector Lucky Phrachanh told CNN.
One unnamed witness told ABC News Australia that he’d been fishing on nearby rocks when he saw a man in a wetsuit swimming across the bay. A giant shark grabbed the man and drug him underwater, the witness reported.
“He was yelling at first, and then when he went down there were so many splashes,” he said. “It was terrible. I am shaking.”
Wednesday’s attack marks Sydney’s first fatal shark encounter in nearly 60 years.
While most sharks are harmless to humans, experts recommend that swimmers take certain steps to minimize their chances of an encounter — swim only in patrolled areas during the daytime, avoid murky or discolored waters and steer clear of schools of baitfish.