Drone spots two great whites near surfer at Evans Head
TWO large great whites swimming within 50 metres of a lone surfer this morning at Evans Head have been captured on drone footage.
And yet despite being warned of the sharks' presence, the surfer refused to get out of the water.
Licensed drone pilot Mark Flaherty was operating his drone on its fifth flight of the morning in a bid to assist local authorities with shark surveillance when the drama unfolded.
"We were basically scanning the area from the north wall to 200m north of the surf club," Mr Flaherty said.
"About five minutes into the flight we were scanning large school of baitfish just out from the surfer.
"We kept scanning that area and then suddenly spotted two large objects just out from the school of baitfish.
"We dived down to the point of interest and scanned it, and identified as either two sharks or two dolphins.
Quickly checking the footage close up, the dark shapes were confirmed to be "definitely white pointers", Mr Flaherty said.
"Local authorities witnessed the footage and confirmed the sightings, at approximately three metres in size," he said.
"They were meandering within 50m from the surfer.
Local Evans Head police officer Senior Constable Peter Richardson was off duty but standing no more than 20m away at the time.
After frantic phone calls, within a few minutes the Evans Head Marine Rescue boat approached the man, who ignored the warnings to paddle in and continued to surf.
"We were in absolute shock," Mr Flaherty recalled.
"The schools of baitfish were just out off the edge of the surfer, at one stage the surfer paddled right over the school.
"It was very very chilling footage."
After coming back to shore, the surfer who was apparently visiting from South Australia, argued that "more people died from domestic violence than shark attacks".
But local onlookers though the man created a public nuisance and compromised public safety by not responding to warnings.
"This guys is extremely lucky, these sharks could have had him," Mr Flaherty said.
"He was the best part of 80m offshore and he would have been in a lot of trouble.
"This surfer was in the wrong place at the right time for the sharks."
Following that, the drone crew sighted another shark in very shallow water off Shark Bay, south of the Evans River.