Two piece of wetsuit have been found in the water hours after a surfer was seen being dragged off his surf board by a shark, crushing hopes he could still be found alive.
Andrew Sharpe was surfing about 10.45am at Kelp Beds beach near Esperance, Western Australia, on Friday when he was bitten on the leg by a shark.
The 52-year-old was knocked off his board in the attack and as his friends paddled over to save him they reportedly saw the shark come back and pull Mr Sharpe under the water.
A surf board with bite marks later washed ashore but there has still been no sign of Mr Sharpe.
Police revealed on Saturday they believe the rescue mission was now a recovery mission, with rescuers finding pieces of wetsuit in the water.
“We don’t hold any ongoing hope, unfortunately, for Mr Sharpe’s survival,” Senior Sergeant Justin Tarasinski told reporters.
“We have located two pieces of his wetsuit or a wetsuit that’s believed to belong to Mr Sharpe … not too far away from his last-known position.
“They’ve been seized and they’ll go for forensic testing.”
The search for the missing surfer was called off at about 2.30pm due to poor weather, with the search likely to recommence tomorrow but as a recovery mission.
It’s the fifth incident in the area in just seven years, with a teenage girl killed at the same spot three years ago.
Locals said the shark-infested waters were “too dangerous” for surfers.
“Sharks are always prowling these waters at Esperance for years and for decades. We don’t swim in these waters too far out from the shallow waters,” Denise Colbung said.
Following the attack Snr Sgt Tarasinski said up to eight surfers were in the water at the time of the attack.
“The surfboard washed up nearby to where the attack occurred and with obvious signs of shark attack,” he told reporters on Friday.
“The chances of survival are obviously pretty slim considering some of the accounts that have been provided to us.”
The search, involving jet skis and boats, was called off due to a lack of daylight Friday evening.
Premier Mark McGowan described it as a “very sad and potentially tragic” situation.
Shire of Esperance president Ian Mickel said the community was saddened by the tragedy.
“It’s extremely sad to hear there’s been a shark attack again,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of attacks over the last seven years. It’s just really, really disappointing.”
– With NCA NewsWire