Woman held shark victim’s hand hoping to feel signs of life

HELPER: Debbie McDonald and daughter Sienna Goldstone.
HELPER: Debbie McDonald and daughter Sienna Goldstone. Christian Morrow

DEBBIE McDonald from Suffolk Park was one of a group of people who went to the aid of Paul Wilcox last Tuesday after he was fatally attacked by a three-metre white pointer at Clarkes Beach.

Still shaken after the ordeal, events of the morning play over and over again in Debbie's mind.

"I was jogging on the beach when I came across a group of tourists pointing their camera phones into the water," she said.

"I stopped to take a photo of what I thought may be a dolphin, but then looked to me like a large mass of seaweed.

"Then in the face of a wave I saw this massive shark, there was no curviness in it, it was pointy as."

By this time Mark Hickey, a lawyer from Newcastle, had arrived at the shoreline with his surf ski and the two thought the man may still be alive and they had to act.

"Mark threw his kayak on the sand and went in ahead of me try to drag the man out," she said.

Debbie plunged into the water after Mr Hickey to help bring Mr Wilcox to the shore.

Having already called the emergency line she relayed instructions to Mr Hickey and two other men as they attempted to perform CPR on Mr Wilcox.

As the group worked to try and save Mr Wilcox, Debbie held his hand, hoping to feel signs of life.

"I was holding his hand to see if he would squeeze it," she said.

Mr Wilcox was eventually pronounced dead by the police and medics who had arrived.

The tragedy unfolded on a part of the beach where Debbie and her family often swim.

This weekend her seven-year-old daughter is also due to sign on for another season of Nippers.

For now Debbie is staying out of the water but does anticipate getting back in the surf at some stage.

"I was in the Nippers when I was younger and I realise that when you get in the water you are in the shark's backyard," she said.

Debbie was also concerned that many people continued swimming after the shark attack occurred.

"I do think that we could put something in place to get people out of the water quicker after a shark attack," she said

"Maybe we could come up with some kind of recognised hand signal to use on the beach.

"My aim now is to work on making the beach a safer place."

Topics:  editors picks shark attack

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