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Survivor loving his new home

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 01/01/2014
Vaughan Hill
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

LOVING LIFE: Shark attack victim and solo dad Vaughan Hill and his daughter Isobel, 7, are both enjoying living in Timaru.

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Solo dad Vaughan Hill shared his story of surviving a shark attack with the Timaru Herald in June when new to Timaru. We revisited him to find out how he and his 7-year-old daughter Isobel, originally from the Chatham Islands, were getting on.

His remarkable story of losing most of his right arm to the five-metre white pointer while harvesting paua near Pitt Island in 1996 has inspired others and since appearing in the Herald, he has been invited to speak about his experience at South School once, and twice at Rolleston Prison.

"The first time I was really nervous. I don't rehearse, I just relate it, I don't preach," he said.

In day-to-day life, he said, children often asked him what happened to his arm. He will joke with them, telling them he didn't eat his greens or didn't wash his hands. "I tell them that's not true," Isobel said.

The people he had met and made friends with in Timaru had been great, Mr Hill said.

He is on South School's Board of Trustees and also on the PTA. Isobel is active in many sports, making their lives busy and full.

As an advocate for diver safety, he is pleased that since October, PauaMacs (Paua Management Action Committees) have introduced underwater breathing apparatus for professional divers.

PauaMacs chief executive Jeremy Cooper said it was about reducing risk of shark attacks as snorkelling divers were vulnerable when they ascended in water columns for air.

"Sharks are inquisitive and usually there is a precursor to attacks such as a dead pilot whale, a whale carcass, or a fisherman gutting and bleeding cod," Mr Cooper said.

The underwater breathing apparatus had 45 minutes of oxygen, allowing divers to stay on the bottom if a shark was taking an interest in them.

In November, a Chatham Island's hotel owner was unharmed while diving thanks to his apparatus. Sitting on the seabed and using his paua bag he warded off a shark. Once it lost interest, he ascended safely.

Mr Cooper said not only were the tanks vital safety gear but they also made collecting seafood more efficient.

As a shark attack survivor, Mr Hill is relieved other divers are now less likely to suffer the way he has.

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- The Timaru Herald

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