Michael Cohen, 43, had his right leg bitten off and part of his left leg below the knee by a shark, while swimming off Fish Hoek beach outside Cape Town on Wednesday 26 September 2011.
According to reports he had ignored warnings by shark spotters not to enter the water as three sharks had been spotted close to the beach. Fish Hoek beach is in False Bay, a renowned great white breeding ground.
According to press reports, at around 12:25 on Wednesday, the mountain shark spotter saw a swimmer enter the water near the Clovelly Corner area of the beach. The spotter tried to sound the alarm, but due to an city-wide electricity failure, the alarm did not sound.
Spotters first sighted two great white sharks after 09:00 on Wednesday. The alarm was sounded, the beach was closed and the white flag was raised. Once the sharks had moved back out of the bay, the red warning flag was raised as per standard safety protocol. At 10.50am shark spotters sighted two great white sharks for a second time in Fish Hoek. The shark siren was again sounded, the beach was cleared of swimmers and the shark flag was raised.
At around 12.25 a witness saw a large shark “casually and slowly” approach Cohen, who was swimming parallel to the beach in a southerly direction, near the brown water coming from the Silvermine River mouth. The shark approached him from behind. Cohen appeared unaware of the shark’s presence.
“The shark lunged for the swimmer, shook him once, then let go and moved off 5m to 10m away.”
Cohen was pulled ashore by two men who had seen the incident unfolding from the shore. They waded in through the surf to reach Cohen who was by then struggling in the sea red with his blood.
On the beach one of the shark spotters applied a tourniquet and raised his leg to stem the bleeding. Emergency services arrived shortly afterwards and he was airlifted by helicopter to Constantiaberg Hospital. He was reported in stable condition.