Foot bitten off in horror shark attack
A British backpacker had his foot bitten off after being attacked by a shark off Airlie Beach in Queensland's Whitsundays, with another man also sustaining serious leg injuries.
The men were snorkelling in Hook Passage at about 10.20am when the attack occurred.
Queensland Ambulance Service's Tracey Eastwick said the shark first attacked one of the pair, then returned and bit the second man.
One of the men, 28, lost his right foot, the second man, 22, suffered severe calf lacerations.
RACQ CQ Rescue said the tourists told crewmen they were "wrestling and thrashing about in the water" when the attack happened.
There were 20 people on board the tour boat but it remains unclear how many were in the water at the time, or what type of shark attacked.
Emergency crews were called to the Coral Sea Marina, with two international paramedics treating the men on the boat until emergency services arrived.
The men were transported by road ambulance to a location on Shute Harbour Rd in nearby Proserpine to meet with the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter.
They were then flown to Mackay Base Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Tourism operator, ZigZag Whitsundays, confirmed in a statement that two of their guests were injured in a shark attack this morning.
"Our thoughts are with them, their families and the other guests on the tour," the business said in a statement.
"We are working with authorities to assist in any way we can. We have suspended our tours for today and will work closely with authorities regarding our upcoming tours.
"We would also like to thank the VMR and RACQ CQ chopper for their immediate response in assisting our injured guests so quickly."
Tourism Whitsundays and Whitsunday Regional Council released a statement saying passengers and the crew had been provided with counselling.
"Our first thoughts are with the two people involved in the incident and their welfare; as well as the other passengers and crew on the boat," the statement read.
"Immediate counselling support was arranged for the passengers and crew, their welfare is also our priority.
"We would also like to commend the lightning response of our first responders and emergency services."
CEO of Tourism Whitsundays, Natassia Wheeler, said they have contacted other tourism companies to notify them of the incident.
"Anywhere you travel in the world you need to be cautious," she said.
"We have certainly advised all of our industry that this has occurred and they should be careful and take the necessary precautions."
Ms Wheeler praised the tourism operator's fast response to the incident.
"The company today acted so fast and were incredible in terms of the turnaround types and how they responded to this incident and how they took care of their passengers and crew and those affected," she said.
"One thing is that passenger safety is the ultimate priority for anyone in the Whitsundays and anyone that operates a tour."
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters she was yet to be provided with details but her thoughts were with the men.
"My main concern today is for the welfare of these two people who have been injured by what appears to be a shark attack," she said on Tuesday.
"I don't know if they were diving, if it was offshore, I don't know if it was outside the marine park.
"They will get the best care possible."
Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan said governments at all levels were failing to protect locals and tourists.
"We are going to have more and more of this happening until governments put public safety as their number one priority," he told AAP.
Mr Costigan said the entire area should be protected by a beefed up shark control program.
A spokesman for Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the area was not part of the controversial shark controlled program which was suspended earlier this year.
"Airlie Beach has never been covered by the shark control program," he told AAP.
#AirlieBeach - Paramedics are assessing two patients following a reported shark bite incident. One patient is stable and the second is serious. The rescue helicopter has been tasked. pic.twitter.com/hHPqB9ONDw— Queensland Ambulance (@QldAmbulance) October 29, 2019
Victorian doctor Daniel Christidis, 33, was fatally attacked by a shark at Cid Harbour in the Whitsundays region in November 2018 at the start of a yacht trip with friends.
It was the third serious shark mauling at Cid Harbour in two months after Tasmanian woman Justine Barwick and Melbourne girl Hannah Papps were bitten in separate attacks in September 2018. Hannah, 12, later had her leg amputated.
In March this year, Ryan Bowring was hospitalised after being bitten on the thigh in waters near Hardy Reef, about 50km northeast of Hamilton Island.
"I had been in the water for about 20 seconds about to lead a snorkelling tour, when I felt the initial bump and bite," the 25-year-old said in a statement issued via Tourism Whitsundays.
Mr Bowring said he was disappointed "that what was really a freak accident, has been portrayed as something more sinister".