Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Australian shark attack diver to lose leg

An Australian navy diver who fought off a shark in a rare attack in Sydney Harbour was due to undergo surgery Wednesday to amputate his leg.Able Seaman Paul de Gelder, 31, was taking part in a defence exercise near an upmarket residential area of the harbour in Australia's largest city when he was attacked last week, losing his right hand."I will today have my right leg amputated," de Gelder said in a statement on Wednesday."The past week has been quite an overwhelming experience and without certain people I definitely wouldn't be alive today."De Gelder thanked the three colleagues who pulled him from the jaws of the three-metre bull shark, and the paramedics and doctors who treated him."I'm looking forward to rebuilding my life and taking on the new challenges I have to face," he said."Ultimately I would like to return to what I love - Navy diving."The attack took place near the Garden Island Naval Base in Woolloomooloo Bay, which is lined with seafood restaurants and celebrity apartments.While shark attacks are not uncommon off Australia's vast coastline, experts said no one had been bitten by a shark in Sydney Harbour for more than a decade and the last fatal attack was in 1963.The diver's mauling follows a spate of attacks on swimmers off Australian beaches last month, unnerving summer holidaymakers. Three swimmers were attacked and injured within 24 hours just two weeks after a snorkeller was killed.But, with 194 deaths through shark attacks recorded in Australia over the past two centuries, researchers point out endlessly that more people die from bee stings and lightning strikes.

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