Darren Mills. Photo by One News.
Dramatic details of surfer Darren Mills' lucky escape
from a shark attack emerged yesterday, as the Queenstown man
began his recovery from serious injuries.
The 28-year-old was bitten three times while surfing at near
Curio Bay, about 8.30pm on Friday.
Friends gathered at his hospital bed after he was flown by
rescue helicopter to Southland Hospital. The shark attacked
him at Porpoise Bay, in the Catlins area of eastern
Southland, but he punched it away.
Mr Mills suffered three deep gashes between his thigh and his
calf as the shark, possibly a seven-gilled or a great white,
latched on to his leg while he sat on his surfboard 50m
Speaking on TV One last night, Mr Mills said he could not
wait to get back into the water after his ''really lucky''
escape from a ''really scary'' encounter.
''When it hit me, it sort of pushed me out, and I sort of
realised what was going on ... and [I] tried to punch it,''
Mr Mills said.
Mr Mills missed a wave and ''was pretty scared it was going
to come back''.
But the shark stayed away, and Mr Mills made it back to shore
''I just feel really, really lucky. Really lucky.''
Nick Stratford, the owner of Curio Bay Accommodation, said
signs had been put up around the area advising of the attack.
Surfers were back out on the water by 8.30am on Saturday, he
''The shark attack hasn't kept people away. Right now there
are about 10 surfers or boarders; even a swimmer out doing
While there had been some talk of fishing boats tying up in
the bay and throwing guts overboard, which could be
attracting sharks, some locals believed there could be a
shortage of food for marine animals.
''There have been no sea lions on the beach this year ...
normally we would have seals on the beach, too. Perhaps their
feed has been affected. Presumably, they are short on fish.''
Mr Stratford has lived in the area for many years and had
never seen a shark while surfing.
''We know there are sharks in the water, but we don't see
them this close in. Just a freak accident, I suppose.''
A Southland Hospital duty manager said Mr Mills, who has
lived in Queenstown for several years but is from the English
town of Crawley, was in a satisfactory condition last night.
Catlins Surf School owner Nick Smart was surfing about 100m
from Mr Mills when the shark attacked. A holidaying off-duty
doctor and nurse came to Mr Mills' aid before emergency
Mr Mills' surfboard had bite marks in it, which had been used
to estimate the shark at 2m to 3m long.
Additional reporting by APNZ.