Three surfers have had a potentially narrow escape after Surf Life Saving WA’s Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter spotted two sharks in close proximity to the group while conducting a patrol on Sunday afternoon in the South West.
Patrolling over the Cape Naturalist to Sugar Loaf Rock area, in response to a number of shark sightings in the area the previous day, the helicopter came over the top of the popular surf break known as “The Other Side of The Moon” and sighted two approximately 2.5 metres sharks in close vicinity to the three unsuspecting surfers.
Sounding the on-board siren while descending to around 30 feet above the surfers, the helicopter positioned itself between the group and the sharks, the crew communicating with the surfers via hand signals through the open door, making them aware of the position of the sharks.
While observing directions from the on-board crew two of the surfers successfully caught the next wave into the beach and to safety, leaving one of the group still in the water. With one of the sharks now swimming between the remaining surfer and the shore, the crew were able to communicate with the surfer to remain in the water until such a time that the shark had moved far enough down the beach to enable the surfer to safely make his way into shore.
The service was conducting its second patrol of the area that day, due to a shark sighted by the heli in the area the previous day, attributed to the presence of a bait ball.
Surf Life Saving WA General Manager, Chris Peck, said that these types of scenarios clearly demonstrate the important role that the helicopter service plays in helping keep our coastline safe by performing surveillance and being able to initiate a response.
“These surfers were potentially in extreme danger”, said Mr Peck.
“Were it not for the presence of the helicopter there was the potential for a very different outcome from this situation”.
“These aerial patrols, supported through the State Government’s Shark Mitigation Strategy, lend important support to the on-beach patrol services provided by lifesavers and lifeguards”, said Mr Peck.
“They are able to cover large areas in a relatively short period of time. This is particularly important given the vastness of our coastline and the limitations in resources meaning not all beaches, including many popular ones in the south west, can be serviced by on-beach patrol services,” he said.
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter South West service will continue to operate weekends through to 29 April, going daily on public and school holidays.
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