Police open fire on killer shark

Last updated 18:17 28/02/2013
DANIEL GALVIN/Fairfax NZ

A ceremony is held to lift the tapu on the beach where Adam Strange was killed by a shark.

Muriwai blessing
DANIEL GALVIN/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Family and friends of Adam Strange embrace during a ceremony at Muriwai Beach, a day after he died in a shark attack.
FAMILY GRIEVING: Adam Strange, a well known filmmaker, died after being attacked by a shark off Muriwai Beach.
FAMILY GRIEVING: Adam Strange, a well known filmmaker, died after being attacked by a shark off Muriwai Beach.

Man killed by a shark in Muriwai

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Video footage from Auckland’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter shows the moment police opened fire on the shark that killed a swimmer off Muriwai Beach.

Tributes have today poured in for shark attack victim Adam Strange following a moving tapu lifting ceremony at the beach where he died.

Strange died yesterday after being repeatedly dragged underwater by a massive shark, more than four metres in length, in full view of shocked fishermen and just a short distance from the beach, which was jammed with school children at the time.

Fishermen called desperately to Strange, a documentary maker and regular swimmer at the beach north of Auckland, to swim to a nearby rock, but they could only watch helplessly as the shark, believed to be a great white, attacked him.

Witnesses said up to four other sharks also swept in on Strange as blood spread through the water.

Armed police responded in a helicopter and an inflatable surf lifesaving boat, firing into the ocean to drive the sharks off so lifeguards could recover his body.

Rescue officials said this morning that they had film which showed at least two sharks circling. Beaches north of Manukau Harbour will be closed for the rest of this week.

Strange had been swimming from Maori Bay to Muriwai Beach, 200 metres from shore, in training for an Ocean Swim event.

This morning, between 100 and 200 people gathered for the tapu lifting ceremony led by by Ngati Whatua Nga Rima o Kaipara Trust chairman Malcolm Patterson.

Strange's grieving widow was supported by family colleagues from the film industry in which her late husband once worked.

They entered the water at the point Strange's body was pulled out, and stood there, with the water around their ankles, for a long period embracing. Others wrote messages of support in the sand.

Various lifeguards involved in yesterday's dramatic body retrieval from the sea were also present.

His family last night issued a brief statement, saying they were ''grieving the loss of a glorious and great father, husband and friend''.

''We are in deep shock and are still trying to contact overseas family members, so discretion and privacy would be appreciated until the family are ready to make any further statements,'' they said.

A surfing buddy said it was fitting that it took one of the ocean's biggest creatures to "take out" Strange.

Simon Shepheard said his friend was not intimidated by any environment.

"Waves were his specialty and he was training for the Rangitoto swim and that's why he pushed himself out into that environment.

"He was a really incredibly fit man with a well researched diet. He had a huge passion for life, lived in the moment and taught everyone else how to.

"He lived big moments."

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Friends and family were gathering at Strange's widow Meg Thompson's home with flowers and baking.

Thompson was still too upset to talk with media, but Shepheard was happy to speak about the strong and talented man Strange was.

"I just think his death reflected his life.''

"He went through something that was everyone's worst nightmare but he's the only guy I know who could actually handle something like that in his head and could, in some really perverse way, understand what was going on."

"He was passionate, he had a really quick mind that was in demand all through Asia for his problem solving abilities when it came to film making," Shepheard said.

"He could go into a shoot, it doesn't matter what it was, and come out with a polished diamond."

An award-winning director, Strange had a background in painting, photography and graphic design.

On his web page, Strange wrote that when he got a spare five minutes, he liked to ''make a fruit smoothie, surf some big waves out on the West Coast, point my skis down a mountain with Meg, haul my mountain bike up and down a few hills, drink some Pinot while scratching away at a film script...''

Those who knew Strange have paid tribute to a talented man who was in love with the sea.

"Woke up this am still in shock that our friend Adam Strange was killed yesterday. like a surreal dream. He was so talented," Chrys Graham said.

"What a strange death for someone who was full of life... the guy was in love with sea... RIP Adam Strange," Josephine Ong commented.

"A river of tears for Adam Strange's family. Arohanui. You will come through this," Jessica Macc said.

SHARK 'WONT COME BACK'

Muriwai Surf Lifesaving chairman Tim Jago said this morning that everything pointed to the sharks being great whites, due to their size and behaviour.

The expert advice was that when injured, the sharks did not return to the same area. What wasn't known was how badly injured the main shark was after being shot at by a police officer.

Jago said the experts also pointed out there was no record of great whites making repeat attacks in the same places.

They had been scanning the water since yesterday and the sharks had not been spotted again.

Jago said their focus now was on helping Adam's wife and young daughter. They were a popular family in the community.

Jago said Strange was closely associated with the lifesaving club and played an active role in the lead up to last weekend's opening of newly upgraded facilities.

"He was always there at working bees on the end of a shovel," he said.

Jago said the beach was till closed to swimmers but Strange would be the first to encourage people to resume normal activity once all signs of danger had gone.

The first big test of public confidence would come this Sunday when junior lifeguard trainees aged between 5 and 14 were due to train.

ATTACKS OFTEN MISTAKEN IDENTITY

Niwa principal scientist Malcolm Francis said great white sharks were continually circling the New Zealand coastline in summer months, and would on occasion follow schools of fish inshore.

He had been studying and tagging great white sharks for a number of years and said four metres was a "fairly standard" size for a great white.

"That could certainly be a mature male, or if it's a female it wouldn't be mature because they can get quite a bit bigger."

Francis said he was "pretty certain" the shark had not been tagged.

Shark attacks were often cases of mistaken identity, but Francis said depending on a shark's age, they were attracted to eating different things.

"I guess it would be millennia of years of evolution that actually lets them know humans are not their natural food source.

"We don't have fins, and we move in different ways to fish and seals and their typical food sources."

Francis said for the most part, they might get close and investigate but would then typically move away.

"That does not mean you shouldn't get out of the water when one is near. Certainly get out of the water because it's very hard to know what sharks are going to do."

THE ATTACK

Witnesses yesterday recounted the horror of watching the attack from the shore.

Pio Mose, who was fishing on a rock near Maori Bay, just around a point from Muriwai Beach, said he called to the dying man.

''All of a sudden, we saw the shark fin and next minute, boom, attack him and then blood every where on the water.''

Mose dialed 111 and a friend ran to Muriwai to get life guards.

''He was still alive, he put his head up, we called him to swim over [to] the rock to where we were. He raised his hand up, and then while he was rising his hand up we saw another attack pull him in the water.''

Jago said the lifeguards who responded to the incident were shocked at the size of the shark. ''No one had seen anything this big out here ever.''

Muriwai had a history of shark attacks and there had been sightings earlier in the week of at least one large shark at Piha, 14km further south.

Since 1837, only 15 have been fatal, and great whites have been responsible for at least 11 of them.

The last confirmed shark death was in 1976, in Te Kaha, Bay of Plenty, when spearfisherman John Leith was attacked by what was thought to be a bronze whaler.

- Stuff

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