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Invercargill girl fights off shark

BY SAM MCKNIGHT AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 11:11 02/02/2010

Teen survives shark attack

Shark Attack At Fourteen

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The mother of a 14-year-old Invercargill girl who was attacked by a shark has praised her daughter's remarkable calm.

Lydia Ward had to pound a shark in the head with her body board to make it release her from its grasp after it latched on to her hip in waist-deep water at Oreti Beach near Invercargill last night.

Fiona Ward said the shark's bite penetrated Lydia's wetsuit and her skin.

Lydia thought she stood on the shark, tried to move away and stood on it again, she said.

"It just came right out of the water and bit her."

But the quick-thinking teenager furiously whacked the shark on the head with her body board until it let her go, Mrs Ward said.

Lydia said she did not realise she had been attacked until she saw the look of horror on her brother's face.

"I saw my brother's face and turned to the side and saw this large grey thing in the water so I just hit it on the head with a boogie board," she said.

She said she had read "lots of magazine articles and things" about shark attacks which said that's what she should do.

Lydia, whose story has also made headlines across the Tasman, said she was still a "bit shocked" by the occasion.

"I'm sort of fine. It still doesn't really feel real that it actually happened."

Her brother, who was swimming next to her, estimated the shark was about 1.5m long.

Lydia said it was lucky the shark had not attempted to bite him also as he was not wearing a wetsuit.

The pair had fled from the water straight after the attack, with Lydia showing her wounds to her dad.

"Dad though I was crazy when I came out of the water but then I showed him the wetsuit and he was pretty shocked."

Mrs Ward agreed they had struggled to believe what had happened at first.

"She just came out and said 'I've been bitten by a shark' and honestly, the terrible thing about it was I thought she was having me on and then she just pointed to her wetsuit and there's the bite marks."

"I was like, 'for real', and her brother who was in the water with her said 'yeah it was this big grey thing came out of the water'", and showed the shocked parents the size of the fin.

Lydia was not seriously hurt but got "quite a fright".

The family had been to the emergency department but given up due to the wait.

They were going to visit the doctor again today.

Ms Ward praised her daughter's level-headedness.

"I couldn't believe the lack of fuss. I would've been hysterically screaming but no, there was no screaming. She was just standing there looking a bit shaky."

The former competitive swimmer who was a regular visitor at the beach would now be sticking to rivers and lakes, she said.

Senior Sergeant Bruce Terry of Invercargill police said the girl was body boarding about 500m north of the main entrance to the beach at the time.

Police patrolled the beach without further incident, he said.

"It was an unfortunate incident but when sea creatures are stood on people are always at risk."

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-  Southland Times and Stuff.co.nz

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