A surfer bitten by a great white shark at a Port Macquarie beach on Friday faces “many surgeries and has years of rehabilitation ahead of him”, his family has said as he recovers in hospital.
Father-of-two Toby Begg, 44, was attacked by the great white, estimated at 4m long, as he surfed at Lighthouse beach on Friday morning.
He reportedly fought the shark for 30 seconds before swimming to shore, where he was assisted by witnesses who called an ambulance.
An off-duty emergency doctor was on the beach, and able to help staunch Begg’s bleeding, applying a tourniquet and stabilising him until paramedics arrived. He was described as suffering “serious injuries from his hip to his calf and lower legs”.
Police initially described Begg’s injuries as life-threatening, but John Hunter hospital has confirmed he has improved to a serious but stable condition.
Begg’s brother-in-law Chris Lenihan posted on Facebook “it is very early stages” in determining any potential recovery.
“The full extent of his injuries are being uncovered, however he will require many surgeries and has years of rehabilitation ahead of him.
“Toby is my sister Tracy’s loving partner and they have two beautiful children. He is a skilled builder, runs a business and is the family breadwinner,” Lenihan said.
A GoFundMe to help the family cover his medical bills and convalescence has already raised more than $10,000.
Police chief inspector Martin Burke said Begg managed to repel the shark, before getting to shore.
“The reports are the man has tried to fight this shark for up to 30 seconds and has then swum himself to shore where he has realised he has sustained significant lower leg injuries,” he told radio station 2GB.
A teenage witness told 9 News the man was “bleeding everywhere”.
“They were trying to talk to him, he was silent, he was frozen,” she said.
“They tried to tie his leg with the leg rope from the surfboard and some sticks to keep it straight.”
NSW Ambulance inspector Joshua Smyth said Begg suffered significant trauma and blood loss.
“The bystanders obviously did a remarkable job on the patient initially and to initially arrest that haemorrhage and call triple zero.”
Port Macquarie Hastings council has 15 smart drumlines deployed along the region’s coast, with two drones and a listening station also deployed to detect tagged sharks.
A number of great white sharks have been tagged and released in the area recently, including a 2.28-metre shark at nearby Shelly beach on Tuesday and a 2.96-metre shark at North Shore beach on Saturday.
Lighthouse beach was closed after the incident. Surf lifesaving NSW has undertaken a drone search to find the shark and determine its size and species.