WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- An Australian man has died after a large shark attacked him while he was kitesurfing in New Caledonia, a French island territory in the South Pacific, marine authorities said Wednesday.
The 50-year-old man had fallen from his board Tuesday in a large lagoon near the northwestern town of Koumac when the shark bit deep into his right thigh, said Nicolas Renaud, the director of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center.
Renaud said the man, from near Perth in Western Australia, had arrived Sunday for a vacation that was due to last about 10 days and had booked a cruise on a sailing boat so he could do some kitesurfing.
“The crew on the sailing yacht, they saw the attack,” Renaud said.
He said the crew was able to drag the man back on board and administer first aid while calling rescuers, who sent a medical team. They took the man back to the port at Koumac, Renaud said.
“They tried to save him, to give him a heart massage, but it was too late,” Renaud said.
Renaud said it was the fourth shark attack this year in New Caledonia, home to 275,000 people. He said an elderly woman was killed and two others injured in the previous attacks.
He said the Australian was near the reef that encloses the lagoon and far from the shore when the attack took place. He said the lagoon is large enough that sharks are common.
“We can’t stop sharks entering the lagoon,” he said. “He was just in a bad place at a bad time.”
He said the boat’s crew was not able to identify the species of shark, but said it was very large.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to the man’s family.
“It’s very tragic, it’s very sad for the family,” Renaud said.