THE shark believed to be responsible for a fatal attack at Clarkes Beach yesterday was still circling the body as a visiting kayaker dived into the water to rescue the victim.

Paul Wilcox, 50 of Byron Bay, was swimming when he was attacked by what is believed to be a great white.

The shark had bitten the man's right leg and Newcastle lawyer Mark Hickey dived in to retrieve him.

"I had come down to the beach and I was about to go out on my ski and paddle when I saw what looked like a whole lot of seaweed in the water with a mass that looked like a dead turtle," Mr Hickey said.

"The shark was circling around it, you could see this big dorsal fin, it was a pretty big shark, circling around and then it went underneath him. (The body) drifted in about 10m and I went out and dragged him out of the water.

"I was terrified, I kept thinking where is the shark, I got out of there as quick as I could.

"I'd swum the beach about 20 minutes earlier. It could have been me.

Kayaker Mark Hickey pulled the victim from the water. Photo Megan Kinninment / The Northern Star
Kayaker Mark Hickey pulled the victim from the water. Photo Megan Kinninment / The Northern Star Megan Kinninment

"I think he was already deceased in the water, but when we pulled him in we gave him CPR for 30 minutes. His leg had a huge gash in it about 10cm long above the knee."

The attack was reported to police around 10.45am yesterday day with SLSC lifeguards immediately closing the beach to swimmers.

Mr Wilcox's wife, Victoria, was on the beach when the attack happened, Insp Bobbie Cullen from Tweed/Byron Local Area Command said. 

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was tasked to the scene, sighting a 3m shark in the water and guiding surf lifesavers on jet skis as they attempted to herd the shark out to open sea.

However, a spokesperson for the chopper service said the shark kept turning back into the bay and was last sighted around 2pm yesterday.

There were no plans to cull the shark, Insp Cullen told media yesterday, saying that was a decision Marine Area Command would make.

Shark experts from the Department of Primary Industries were flying to Byron Bay yesterday to secure a more positive identification of the shark.

A report is being prepared for the Coroner and the beach would remain closed for 24 hours with lifeguards on duty today to warn swimmers away from the water.



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