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Police shot at a killer shark from a boat as they desperately tried to rescue a man who was under attack off Muriwai Beach on Auckland's west coast this afternoon.
The local man died after he was attacked by a large shark at the south end of the beach about 1.30pm.
Inspector Shawn Rutene confirmed police shot at the shark, measuring about four metres long, but could not say how many times.
The officer was on the water in an IRB with three lifeguards. Mr Rutene said one of them saw a second shark. It was unclear whether the second shark had been involved in the attack.
He said after being shot the shark "rolled away", but refused to say whether it was still attacking the man at the time.
Mr Rutene said the victim was a local man. His family were "devastated'' and his wife was being supported by Victim Support and police at the scene.
Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service chairman Tim Jago fought back tears as he spoke about the fatal incident.
He said the dead man was well known to Muriwai lifeguards - including those who tried desperately to save his life.
Mr Jago would not go into the specific details about what the lifeguards on the IRB with police saw, but he said it was "traumatising''.
The lifeguards were young, and were being offered support and counselling.
He said it was unusual for sharks to be at Muriwai, especially one this size.
"This is something completely shocking,'' he said.
All beaches on Auckland's west coast had been closed until further notice. The shark responsible for the attack had not been located.
"They've got every 'beach closed' sign they can get their hands on,'' said Mr Jago.
Pio Mose watched the attack unfold about 1.30pm while fishing with a group of men on the rocks between Maori Bay and Muriwai Beach.
He saw the "huge'' shark attack a man alone swimming from the bay back to the beach about 50 metres from where he was standing.
"All of a sudden there was blood everywhere.''
The man struggled with the shark before it swam away. He was keeping his head above the water before the shark returned.
"I yelled at him to swim to the rocks. There was blood everywhere. The water was red. It's pretty scary.''
He said after the second attack three or four other sharks came to the area.
Mr Mose and the other fisherman watched as the shark took the man's body out to sea and when lifeguards eventually arrived they directed them to where the group of sharks were.
The man's body was later retrieved.
"Its awful - it's scary like a nightmare to me. I was shaking, scared, panicked,'' said Mr Mose.
He said he had never seen sharks in the three years he'd been fishing in that spot.
"All I was thinking was I wanted to jump in the water and help but I didn't want to get attacked by a shark too.''
Mr Mose said those who went out to retrieve the man's body fired about six shots at the shark.
A member of the public called police to report a man under attack by a shark at 1.24pm.
Police raced to the scene by road and the Eagle helicopter was also dispatched.
Eagle crew members spotted the shark while it was still near the man's body. A source told the Herald the Eagle stayed above the shark so police in the IRB could locate it.
Police believe the shark was likely to be a great white.
- By Kieran Campbell of APNZ, and Andrew Koubaridis and Anna Leask of the NZ Herald
Fatal shark attacks
- The last death from a shark attack in New Zealand was in Whangamata in 2010.
- Fatal shark attacks are rare, with one fatal attack every 13 years on average since 1852.
- Great white sharks are the most common killers. They are responsible for 11 of the fatal attacks in New Zealand in which the species has been identified.
- Other fatal attacks have been carried out by bronze whalers and mako sharks.
- Most victims were swimming, a quarter were snorkelling and the rest were either standing in shallows or surfing.
- Non-fatal shark attacks are relatively common in New Zealand, with 44 unprovoked attacks recorded in the last 150 years.
Sources: Te Ara, Herald archives