Moment quick-thinking beachgoers drag Briton to shore after he lost both legs in shark attack

Thursday, September 29, 2011

-Swimmer pictured in surf seconds after South Africa horror
-Rescuers saved his life with makeshift tourniquet using wetsuit
-Accountant had gone for a dip at beach despite warnings
-In 'critical' condition after losing right leg and left foot
-10m Great White also went for rescuers - but was distracted by a seal

By Jane Flanagan

In shock: Michael Cohen in the water seconds after the attack by a 10ft Great White shark off a beach in Cape Town

This is the dramatic moment a British swimmer is rescued from the sea by quick-thinking beachgoers after losing both legs in an attack by a Great White shark.

In an astonishing sequence of pictures, Michael Cohen can be seen being dragged to shore by brave bystanders as the shark circled nearby.

Graphic images show the 42-year-old in the surf with his limbs bleeding profusely off Clovelly Beach, in Fish Hoek near Cape Town, South Africa.

Full details of the sensational rescue effort by a pair of men in their sixties emerged today.

Dragged to safety: Mr Cohen is pulled ashore while the shark is still circling nearby

Douglas Drysdale, 61, and Hugh Till, 66, had seen a shark's distinctive outline heading towards a lone swimmer as they looked out from cliffs above the bay.

They raced to the shoreline and dived into the surf but were very nearly attacked themselves by the same shark as they pulled to safety Mr Cohen - who lost his right leg and part of his left foot in the attack.

Amazingly, it was only the sudden appearance of a seal that distracted the 10m shark and enabled the trio - now helped by an unidentified fourth man - to get to the beach yesterday lunchtime.

Canadian-born Mr Cohen, who has a UK passport and previously lived in Chiswick, west London, regularly swam in the area.

He was bitten 'numerous times' and is today 'critical' in hospital after doctors battled to save him.

Craig Lambinon, of South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute, praised the efforts of the rescuers: 'They shouted and waved at the man, but he didn’t notice. By the time they got there he’d been bitten and was struggling in the water.'

He said the men, volunteer preachers at a prison, waded out to Mr Cohen but onlookers started yelling that the shark had returned and was heading towards them.

It was homing in on them when the seal appeared and distracted it.

It has emerged that Mr Cohen entered the sea yesterday even though the beach had been closed after three sharks were spotted.

Onlookers said he walked past a flag indicating a shark was in the water.

Safely ashore: Mr Cohen is dragged on to Clovelly beach near Fish Hoek - he was airlifted to hospital and is in a 'critical' condition today

Is this the culprit? This image of a Great White was taken close to where Mr Cohen was attacked. It was taken by shark spotters monitoring the area this week

Witness Tracy Sassen, a former South African surfing champion, said: 'The man was crying and pleading, "Please help me". He was white and in shock. Half one leg was missing.'

Kathy Geldenhuis, 58, who helped paramedics, said: 'You could tell there was a shark because seals were coming as close as they could to the beach and fish were jumping out of the water.'

Monwabisi Sikweyiya, one of the shark-spotters who guards the bay, said: 'Mr Cohen was very interested in sharks but never took any notice of our warnings. We told him he was taking a risk, but he always said, “If a shark takes me then blame me, not the shark’.”

As chilling video footage of the shark circulated on the internet, Cape Town announced that all beaches in the area would remain closed today.

Beach rescue: Medics treat Michael Cohen's injuries, using makeshift tourniquets to stem the blood flow from his legs

Drama: Members of the Fish Hoek emergency services stretcher Mr Cohen from the beach to a waiting helicopter. He has lost his lower right leg and left foot

Airlift: Mr Cohen is taken to hospital in Cape Town where he was expected to undergo around six hours of surgery

Mr Cohen, who is believed to be single, works as a part-time accountant and lives in the Cape Town suburb of Plumstead. He was airlifted to Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic where he arrived fully conscious.

Medics stabilised him and battled to save his life, taking him into surgery where the tourniquet was removed.

Prof Nichol said: 'We continued with the resuscitation and stabilisation. In theatre it was fairly obvious that nothing could be done as there were was no right lower leg so we just formalised the amputation on that site surgically.'

False Bay, where Fish Hoek is located, has one of the world’s highest densities of Great White sharks. A 37-year-old Zimbabwean man was killed by one in January last year off the same beach.

Clear warning: A woman reads a book on a bench beneath a shark warning flag next to the closed Fish Hoek beach in Cape Town, South Africa, where the man was attacked


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