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.

Pic­ture: 7NEWS

Night­mare episode: An emo­tional Ross Tam­lin and Nicole Tam­lin re­call the at­tack as po­lice search.

A trib­ute to An­drew Sharpe at Esper­ance.

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