Search for WA shark victim suspended


The search for an experienced scuba diver killed by a white shark off Western Australia‘s southern coast has been suspended, as the government looks towards boosting water safety measures in the area.

Gary Johnson, 57, was in the water with his wife Karen Milligan when he was mauled about 1pm on Sunday near Cull Island, close to West Beach in Esperance.

Ms Milligan managed to put out the mayday call and had to be treated in hospital for shock.

Only Mr Johnson’s tank, vest and flippers have been found during days of extensive searches, which included using two remotely-operated vehicles to scour the ocean floor.

On Wednesday, police said the search had been suspended pending any new information.

WA Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley met with first responders to thank them for their efforts and also met with Ms Milligan.

“She doesn’t support a cull … she does support a better collection of data, she does support the idea of marine parks,” he told reporters.

Mr Tinley said the popular Twilight Beach did not have a transponder that received signals from tagged sharks, so he had asked the department to attend to that as soon as possible.

“The second thing I’ve asked the agency to do is to make sure that we have a visual and audible warning when a tagged shark goes past one of those transponders,” he said.

“It’s no good in the water – you don’t have your phone with you, you can’t look on the app.”

Mr Tinley reiterated that the SMART drumline trial would be considered further in February.

In a statement on Monday, Ms Milligan described Mr Johnson as her rock and said he was at home in the ocean.

“We were always aware of the risks and often told each other that if we were attacked by a shark that would just be unlucky,” she said.

Mr Johnson was president of the Esperance Dive Club and wrote on social media in 2017 that he wore a shark protection device because it gave him peace of mind.

He was reportedly wearing the device at the time of the attack but had not activated it.

It is the second shark fatality in Esperance in less than three years, following the death of 17-year-old surfer Laeticia Brouwer at Kelp Beds in April 2017.

Originally published as Search for WA shark victim suspended



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