Teenage Girl Dies After Shark Attack in Australian River
A teenage girl died after she was attacked by a shark while swimming in a river in Western Australia on Saturday afternoon, the police said.
The girl, 16, was pulled from the Swan River, about 10 miles southwest of central Perth, with “critical injuries,” according to the Western Australia Police Force, which responded to the attack.
The girl, who was not named by the police, had been Jet Skiing with friends when she possibly jumped into the water to swim with a pod of dolphins, Inspector Paul Robinson of the Fremantle District of the Western Australia Police Force said at a news conference.
He said that the girl had died at the scene from her injuries but did not specify what those injuries were. “It’s an extremely traumatic event for everyone involved,” Inspector Robinson added. “It is unusual for a shark to be that far down the river.”
The headmaster of Scotch College, a private boys’ school in Perth, identified the girl as Stella Berry, the daughter of a staff member. Two boys of the school, friends of Stella, were the first respondents, Dr. Alec J. O’Connell, the headmaster, wrote in a letter to the Scotch community.
After the United States, Australia has the second-highest recorded incidence of unprovoked shark attacks, according to data from the International Shark Attack File. In 2021, there were 12 attacks across Australia, and three of those were fatal. Encounters in rivers are especially rare, an expert said.
Johan Gustafson, a shark ecologist at Griffith University in Queensland, said that while sharks are often “hanging around” to feed on fish, the chances of being bitten by a shark, especially in a river, are very slim.
“This may have just been one of those mistaken identity scenarios,” Dr. Gustafson added. He noted that swimming or surfing during the day, and outside of feeding hours, were the best ways to reduce any risk.
Six other shark attacks, one of them fatal, have been recorded in the Swan River, according to the Australian Shark Incident Database. The most recent attack was in 2021, when a man in his 50s was bitten on a leg by a two- to three-meter bull shark, a species that can enter estuaries and freshwater river systems.
While the authorities have yet to determine what kind of shark was involved in Saturday’s attack, the state’s fisheries minister, Don Punch, said at a news conference that the animal may have been a bull shark.
Additional protection measures to protect swimmers from sharks in the region could be considered, Mr. Punch added. He said that the nearby beach had been closed following the attack and that the river was being patrolled.
“It’s not possible, effectively, to close the river,” Mr. Punch said, “when we know that shark could be anywhere.”
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