Surfer a hero
Mate ‘a hero’ for trying to save Andrew Sharpe from great white
A SURFER who tried to save his “great mate” Andrew Sharpe from a 5m great white shark near Esperance has been hailed a “hero”, as police conceded they had lost any hope of finding Mr Sharpe alive.
A SURFER who tried to save his “great mate” Andrew Sharpe as he was attacked by a 5m great white shark near Esperance has been hailed a “hero” and a “brave, brave soul”, as police yesterday conceded they had lost any hope of finding the father of two alive.
Local man Ross Tamlin said Jan Golebiowski, whose brother Zac miraculously survived a shark attack off Esperance in 2006, was closest to Mr Sharpe and tried to help him after the great white attacked at Kelp Beds on Friday morning.
Mr Sharpe — a former electrician known as “Sharpey” — was bumped and bitten by the shark as he was surfing about 100m offshore before being dragged under and vanishing from sight at the notorious break about 10.45am.
Mr Sharpe’s surfboard later washed up covered in bite marks.
A large-scale sea and land search for him resumed at first light yesterday, which uncovered two pieces of wetsuit believed to belong to the father not far from where he was attacked.
But there was still no sign of Mr Sharpe before the search had to be called off at 2pm due to poor weather.
It will start again this morning, but Esperance police officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Justin Tarasinski said “we don’t hold any ongoing hope unfortunately for Mr Sharpe’s survival”.
“We’ll continue on for as long as we possibly can with the resources that we have ... that’s about bringing some closure to Mr Sharpe’s family,” he said.
The heartbreaking concession came as tributes flowed for the “amazing friend and family man” and “a legend in and out of the water”, a well-known surfer who was from a highly regarded local family who were Esperance pioneers
Scott Docherty gathered with some of his fellow surfers, a group fondly known as the “Beer Belly Surf Club”, to remember their mate yesterday.
Many of them witnessed the tragedy.
“I don’t think you could find anyone that could say a bad word about him,” he said.
“He’s just a positive lad. He loves surfing, he loves his family, he loves snowboarding. He is just a good bloke.
“It has been surreal in a way, numbing. Esperance has sort of lost a surfing mate and we are just trying to come to terms with how their family are feeling.”
Mr Sharpe was taken as surfers, such as Mr Tamlin, were enjoying the “magnificent day”. When horror struck, panic quickly spread across the busy beach.
Mr Tamlin’s wife Nicole was on the sand and raised the alarm, calling triple-0.
“There was probably 15 to 20 of us in the water at the time and yeah conditions were pretty perfect and obviously pretty tragic events unfolded in front of us all,” Mr Tamlin told 7NEWS.
“Obviously everyone panics at the time when they realise what’s happening.
“The guy who was closest to him, Jany, tried to render help but I think it was all too much for him and he just paddled in. Jan’s a very brave man, he’s a hero. And he was great mates with Sharpey, so for him to obviously try and render assistance — brave, brave soul.”
Mr Tamlin said “there were probably two or three of us within reaching distance” of the shark when it attacked.
“It was all too close,” he said. “Your initial thoughts are obviously with the surfer and you want to render assistance as much as possible. That’s what we all wanted to try and do, whether you can actually achieve that and do anything is another story.”
Mr Tamlin said the size of the shark’s dorsal fin and its tail fin made him initially believe there were two predators. “The dorsal fin was probably up to somewhere less than a metre high so it was a pretty big shark,” he said.
“I’ve never seen a dorsal fin that big before, not even in media footage or anything so it would have to be, at a guess, 4m to 5m, I would have thought.”
Mr Tamlin said after a panicked, frantic paddle to the shore, chaos erupted as there were calls for someone to ring triple-0.
His wife, who was able to get through to an operator, said it would be hard for anybody who was not at the scene to understand how “horrific” it was. “No, no idea and I don’t want to speak about it because I don’t want the family to know, but it was horrific,” she said.
Friday’s attack was the fifth serious shark incident in Esperance in just seven years. Sean Pollard lost an arm when he was mauled at Kelp Beds in 2014, while Laeticia Brouwer, 17, was fatally attacked by a shark at the same surf break in 2017. “Sadly, second time unlucky again and something we’re getting pretty sick of,” Mr Tamlin said. “At the end of the day we just want our community to be as safe as we can on land and on sea.” After local diver Gary Johnson was taken by a great white at Esperance’s Cull Island earlier this year, new shark warning towers were installed and upgrades were made to the shark monitoring system. Shire of Esperance President Ian Mickel said the deployment of the towers was “a great effort” by the McGowan Government but it “obviously wasn’t enough”.
Mr Mickel said the “community would pull through” but said it was “also seeking answers”, calling for Premier Mark McGowan and Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley to visit Esperance and speak with the community.
“We have a number of people in this community who have a lot of skills and information in regards to sharks. They are people who make a living from the sea, they can tell their part of the story,” he said.
“Their knowledge isn’t one of emotion, their knowledge is one of what I would call an experience and potential solutions that they see to this issue. I hope we can get a meeting with the Premier and people can share their views.”
Mr Mickel said the community was “really shocked and extremely disappointed that we have lost another life at sea particularly with a shark attack”.
“To be lost in such a tragic way is just so sad,” he said.
Esperance Ocean Safety and Support Group committee member David Swan echoed Mr Mickel’s sentiments, saying the incident was “terrible for us and the community”.
“We have a very popular member of the community, just a genuine and nice guy and a family missing a husband and a father now,” he said. “They are all beautiful people and we are all devastated for them — we are just thinking, again?”
Dr Swan said the community was behind the group’s shark response policy, which would authorise the immediate deployment of a lethal drum line in the wake of a fatal shark attack.
Nightmare episode: An emotional Ross Tamlin and Nicole Tamlin recall the attack as police search.
A tribute to Andrew Sharpe at Esperance.