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Constant watch at beach after deadly shark attack

Published: 5:39AM Thursday February 28, 2013 Source: ONE News

Muriwai Beach is being patrolled around the clock but there has been no sign of the sharks involved in a deadly attack yesterday.

Adam Strange died after being attacked while swimming from Maori Bay around a headland into Muriwai, around 200 metres offshore.

The sharks, believed to be great whites, continued circling the body of the 46-year-old long after the attack.

The beach is currently off-limits and surf lifesaving said that while the chances of a shark attack are very low it is only natural that people may feel nervous about entering the water.

Strange's wife, two-year-old daughter and members of the shocked Muriwai community gathered on the beach this morning for a poignant tapu lifting ceremony and to pay respects to the local man.

Mourners waded into the sea as local iwi blessed the site where Strange's body had been taken to after it was retrieved from the water.

In a statement released last night the family said they are "grieving the loss of a glorious and great father, husband and friend".

"We are in deep shock," they said.

Desperate rescue bid

Police and surf lifesavers tried desperately to stop the attack and during the stand-off up to 12 shots were fired before the 3.5 metre shark in the attack appeared to roll on its back and sink into the sea.

George Maoate was surfing just metres from the violent attack and said what happened was incredibly fast.

The 14-year-old was the last person to speak to Strange, who told him he was training for a competition this weekend.

On the beach surf club patrol captain Danny Tenheuvel was co-ordinating the response and he described the calls on the radio as "pretty horrific".

The guards are shaken and say they will be cautious about returning to the sea.

"I think pretty wary now...looking over my shoulder next time I go for a swim," Tenheuvel said.

But Andrea Rush, who was bitten by a shark on the leg 21 years ago, said swimmers should not be deterred.

"We've got to put it in perspective," she said.

"You're very, very unlucky for this to happen to you. So people shouldn't be too alarmed and they should still enjoy swimming in the beaches in New Zealand. It's a very, very rare thing."

No plan of attack

Muriwai lifeguards did not have any plans in place to respond to shark attacks. They said they did the best they could to recover Strange's body, including clubbing the shark over the head with paddles.

Tim Jago, chairman of the Muriwai Surf Lifesaving service, said that statistically what happened yesterday should never have happened.

"The fact that people that knew Adam went to his rescue has been a little bit difficult as well."

He said he had been talking about shark attacks on Sunday afternoon.

"So there is a dark irony in that I guess, but because nothing like this has happened for 40 years in mainland New Zealand we don't have anything in the policy manuals."

He said there is "nothing in the text book to say how we should deal to this so we cobbled a plan together pretty quickly on the hoof and it came together really well".

Jago said the operation "went seamlessly".

"If there is a happy bit in this whole thing is that we managed to get Adam's body back for his family. That doesn't always happen in these kinds of events."

He said he was fearful as they went out in a boat to recover Adam's body from the sharks as they did not know what they were confronting.

"We had a policeman with a fairly large gun to try and fend the guy off... even after the gun had been fired a couple of times they were actually clubbing the shark on the head with one of the paddles of the boat to try and make it move away."

He said he was impressed by the professionalism and composure of the young lifeguards at the scene.

Strange had been training for a long distance harbour swim, and was good in the water, Jago said.

"He surfs out here a lot so the swimming side of things was never going to be a problem for him, what's a little bit sort of eerie for us is the fact that he had been swimming from friend to friend in the water and talking to them so it could've been any number of people, it just happened to be Adam."

New protocol

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand said it is looking to create new protocol for responding to shark attacks. It says while the chances of a shark attack like this are very low, there are some guidelines in place for safe swimming and to help reduce the risk of incidents involving sharks.

Support manager Tom Burgess said swimmers should leave the water immediately if a shark is sighted or if advised by the lifeguards that a shark has been sighted.

"If you sight a shark yourself make sure you alert others," he said.

"Swimmers should avoid entering the water after dusk, at night or before dawn when some sharks are typically more active. You should also avoid swimming in, or near, murky or silt-laden waters or near schools of fish. Never swim or surf alone and, of course, one of our key safety messages is always - if in doubt, stay out."

Burgess says they have sought expert advice from their counterparts in Australia and from the Department of Conservation's shark expert.

Meanwhile, Muriwai Beach will stay closed out of respect and for safety reasons until Saturday.

Auckland Council says all other west coast beaches have returned to normal operating status.