A YOUNG girl from New Zealand and a mother from Tasmania are fighting for their lives after a horror 24 hours of shark attacks in the Whitsundays that has prompted the government to install drum lines in the area immediately.

A 12-year-old girl became the second person to be mauled by a shark at Cid Harbour, near Whitsunday Island.

Less than 24 hours prior, Tasmanian tourist, avid snorkeller, mother and healthcare worker Justine Barwick, 46, was attacked by a shark - presumably the same one - at nearly the same spot.

They were both transported in a critical condition to Mackay Base Hospital, with the shark taking "huge chunks" from their thighs.

Both suffered serious injuries and major blood loss.

 

Paramedics and the RACQ CQ Rescue crew arriving at Mackay Base Hospital with the 12-year-old girl who was mauled by the shark.
Paramedics and the RACQ CQ Rescue crew arriving at Mackay Base Hospital with the 12-year-old girl who was mauled by the shark. Madura McCormack

The 12-year-old girl, a tourist from New Zealand, had been in the water near Cid Harbour when she was bitten about 1.45pm, prompting the deployment of the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter.

It is understood she had been travelling on board vessel Miss Denero with her father and sister.

In a show of synchronisation by emergency services personnel, the Hamilton Island-based paramedic was rushed to the scene by a Water Police vessel, administering life-saving first aid as the rescue chopper landed on the beach at Whitsunday Island.

 

RACQ CQ Rescue's view during the rescue of a 12-year-old shark bite victim
RACQ CQ Rescue's view during the rescue of a 12-year-old shark bite victim RACQ CQ Rescue

The girl, who is understood to have remained conscious throughout the ordeal, was ferried ashore by the police vessel and flown directly to Mackay Base Hospital.

Bitten just below the groin, she had to be given 1.5 litres of blood during the flight.

Queensland Ambulance Services Mackay operations manager Tracey Eastwick said there was nothing to suggest at this stage that the girl would lose a limb.

"Her condition at the moment can be called critical," she said.

"The patient is going, I believe, direct to theatre for treatment."

 

RACQ CQ Rescue aircrew Ben McCauley and pilot Kevin Berry, who were part of the four-men helicopter crew that rescued the 46-year-old woman.
RACQ CQ Rescue aircrew Ben McCauley and pilot Kevin Berry, who were part of the four-men helicopter crew that rescued the 46-year-old woman. Madura McCormack

In a cruel twist, it was the same RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter pilot and air crewman that rescued both Mrs Barwick and the young girl.

Air crewman Ben McCauley and pilot Kevin Berry had revealed earlier that day that a trifecta of lucky breaks and emergency services coordination had likely saved Mrs Barwick's life.

The RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter had been in the vicinity of the incident, tasked to a beacon search in Proserpine, when the four-man crew received the call, arriving on scene in 15 minutes. As they hovered overhead, it drew the attention of off-duty emergency doctor Dr John Hadok, who was on a nearby yacht.

Dr Hadok was picked up in a dinghy by people on another boat in the harbour who were frantically going around to all the boats to see if there were any medical staff nearby.

"When I arrived she was out of the water and her marvellous friends and family had already applied lifesaving first aid to control the bleeding," he said. "When I saw her I was very concerned she may not survive.

"It was immediately clear to me that Justine had been severely injured. Her blood pressure was so low I couldn't even feel her pulse, but she was able to say a few words.

"She was aware she was in a terrible situation and frightened, but never hysterical."

 

Dr John Hadok
Dr John Hadok Claudia Alp

Dr Hadok said his main role in the rescue mission was to assist with moving Mrs Barwick from the yacht to an inflatable dingy so she could be winched into the helicopter.

"It was essential she remained horizontal during the transfer so she didn't lose any more blood," he said.

"Restricted by the lack of an open deck and the yacht's high mast, it took the pilot quite a while to find somewhere safe to hover but Justine's husband and best friend were calm, in control and able to help."

With their fuel tank just ten minutes short of what was needed to reach Mackay, the RACQ CQ Rescue diverted to Prosperine to refuel.

Somehow timed perfectly, the helicopter landed as on ground paramedics arrived with bags of blood and more pain relief.

 

RACQ CQ Rescue crewman in Mackay after rescuing the 46-year-old Tasmanian tourist bitten by a shark.
RACQ CQ Rescue crewman in Mackay after rescuing the 46-year-old Tasmanian tourist bitten by a shark. Madura McCormack

RACQ CQ Rescue pilot Kevin Berry said the woman was lucky to be alive considering how much longer it would have taken for her to get help if they had not been in the area.

"We were about ten minutes short of fuel of coming back to Mackay, so we decided to go to Proserpine to refuel there," he said.

"It would have been ideal if we could got have got some fuel at Hamilton Island, it's much closer, but unfortunately they didn't have any there.

"Those logistics were quite good that we all arrived at Proserpine at the same time and that gave the paramedic the chance to work on the patient a little bit more, stabilise her, put some monitoring on her and the fluids were needed straight away.

"So maybe fortuitous that landing at Proserpine got the fluids to her quicker than flying straight to Mackay. It all came together really.

"Certainly quick response, and I guess if we weren't in the area the emergency doctor wouldn't have known there was an issue, so very fortuitous that time, people and resources were there when we needed them."

 

Justine Barwick
Justine Barwick Ed Jones

Chief executive Douglass Doherty, of Family Based Care Tasmania, where Mrs Barwick works, said she is an avid snorkeller and was on an annual trip to the Whitsundays.

"Justine is a fighter- a fit resilient woman who is an outstanding leader in the aged and disability care sectors. These intrinsic attributes will serve her well in her recovery," he said.

Within hours of the second attack, Fisheries Minister Mark Furner announced he had activated special provisions to set up three drum lines in the area today.

"Nothing is more important than the protection of human life," he said.

"I want these drum lines in place as soon as possible."

 

 

The Department of Fisheries is working with other agencies including the police and the Great Barrier Reef Marina Park Authority.

Mr Furner urged swimmers to stay out of the water in the vicinity of Cid Harbour and Sawmill Bay near Whitsunday Island. "Shark attacks in these waters are rare," he said.

"That's why these events are so shocking."

Mrs Barwick was tonight transferred from Mackay to Brisbane by LifeFlight Air Ambulance jet for further treatment at the Royal Brisbane Hospital.



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