Briton in critical care after ‘unusual’ shark attack on Tobago

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A British man is in intensive care after an “unusual” shark attack on the Caribbean island of Tobago.

Peter Smith, 64, received critical care after sustaining serious injuries to his left arm, left leg and stomach on Friday morning, according to a local official.

Tobago House of Assembly’s chief secretary Farley Augustine said Smith, from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, was attacked by a bull shark.

Smith had been in Tobago with his wife and friends and the group had been due to fly home on Friday, Augustine said in a video on Facebook.

Tobago’s Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation said the man had been attacked 10 metres offshore at Great Courland bay, also known as Turtle beach, on the island’s north coast.

The emergency services were contacted immediately and once the man had been rescued from the water, he was taken to hospital for surgery.

The division said the attack was “unusual and unfortunate”.

It said Tobago House of Assembly’s emergencies agencies had closed Turtle beach until further notice, and advised that the same should happen with beaches on the island’s west coast. All reef tours in the area had been suspended, the division’s statement said.

Drones were being used to monitor the area, it said.

The division said: “This is a very unusual occurrence as Tobago is renowned for its safe and beautiful beaches … The division would also like to reassure the public that the safety of our visitors is a priority and all expertise are being engaged to ensure safety and manage this situation as best as possible.”

Orion Jakerov, a water sports manager at the nearby Starfish hotel who witnessed the attack, described how the shark had struck in shallow water and people had tried to fight it off.

Jakerov told the local broadcaster TTT Live: “I don’t think they saw it. They were about waist height in the water so they weren’t out of their depth. I think their backs were turned and they were just kind of lounging around. Nobody saw the shark coming.

“Even while the shark was around and doing the attack, the other people were in the water and physically trying to fight off the shark.”

A $10,000 (£8,000) bounty was placed on the bull shark, before being retracted, the chief secretary, Farley Augustine, said.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said it was supporting the man’s family and was in contact with the local authorities.

Shark attacks on Tobago are rare – most attacks in the region take place further north, in the central Caribbean and off the eastern and southern coasts of the US, according to the International Shark Attack File database.

In 2023, 69 unprovoked shark bites were recorded worldwide, according to the database. The five-year average is of 63 incidents annually. About half of the 2023 attacks took place in the US, which recorded 36 unprovoked bites.

There were 14 confirmed shark-related deaths last year, 10 of which were considered unprovoked, it said.


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