A great white shark this week killed champion bodyboarder David Lilienfeld, according to the Independent Online.
The South African athlete was just 20 years old. As of just a few days ago, he was actively posting at his Facebook page, which revealed his bodyboarding skill.
A great white in South Africa's Kogel Bay, east of Cape Town, cut his life short on Thursday, however.
While in the water with his brother and friends, Lilienfeld was approached by a great white shark that onlookers estimated was over 13 feet long. The shark bit off Lilienfeld's right leg, very high up on the thigh, causing heavy bleeding.
Horrified onlookers describe what happened.
Lucille Bester told the Independent Online:
“We’re very new to the area. It was a beautiful day and we were having lunch, watching the waves and the lovely scenery, checking out the surfers. We finished lunch … when I spotted the shark. I called my husband from the car and he confirmed it was a shark. At that point, the shark was maybe 20-30 meters from the surfers. There were maybe five or six surfers in the water." “We started screaming from the top that there was a shark. Being from Joburg, we didn’t know how to get down the mountain. But they could not hear us. The shark disappeared, but the next thing we saw the shark came from under one of the guys and grabbed him. The shark shook him and then let him go. The surfer was screaming – it was terrible!" “Then it took him again. And that was it. It took him under. The first time it took him, there wasn’t any blood. But the second time there was, " she added. "I stopped a car on the road. They phoned the cops and everybody ran down. It was something I thought I would never experience in my life. It’s been a traumatic day.”
Yusuf George also witnessed the attack.
"When I got there, they said there was a huge shark in the water," he said. "We were trying to shout to the boys to say there was a shark. But it was too late. The next minute I saw the shark circle this guy. The brother was on his way out to catch a wave, and his brother called out to him. “We just saw blood all over. The brother wanted to go in and help, but he couldn’t because the shark still had his brother. The second time the shark took him, it took the boy down with him. A few minutes later, the bodyboard surfaced. And then the body was washed on to the rocks. It was terrible to witness. I’m still shaking (six hours later). I felt so helpless –- I can still hear him shouting for help … ”
According to the International Shark Attack File, great whites killed two people in South Africa last year. Lilienfeld's death brings the total number of fatalities from unprovoked shark attacks in that country to 13 since 1876. In general fatalities from shark bites have decreased as more beaches employ shark spotters on the cliffs with bright red flags to alert lifeguards and surfers when a shark is in the water. The total number of people killed by white sharks last year worldwide was 12, the highest yearly total since 1993.
Experts say that sharks, including whites, do not intentionally go after humans. Sharks instead mistake people for other typical prey, such as sea lions, due to the shape of surfboards or the body as seen from below. Often sharks will take a bite, realize their mistake and move on. With improved access to medical facilities nearby, most victims today survive shark attacks. Unfortunately, the bite that Lilienfeld sustained was too severe.
Photos showing Lilienfeld in bodyboarding competitions can be viewed on this page.