Ambulance paramedics, police and local residents render assistance at the tragic scene near Sapphire on Saturday.
Ambulance paramedics, police and local residents render assistance at the tragic scene near Sapphire on Saturday. Frank Redward

Shark death believed first on Coffs Coast in nearly 75 years

THE suspected shark attack which claimed the life of surfer Zach Young at Campbell's Beach on Saturday was the first on the Coffs Coast in almost 75 years.

No fatalities have been reported in coastal ocean waters since European settlement in the 1860s.

Two deaths have been recorded in the estuary of the Bellinger River.

On December 28, 1938, Daniel Graham died after being attacked at North Beach/Mylestom while fishermen James Elton was taken at Urunga on November 3, 1923.

Apart from these the closest fatal attacks to Coffs Harbour were at Ballina in 2008 and Lord Howe Island in 2001.

However, there have been numerous close calls over the years, particularly off beaches in that area north of Muttonbird Island.

Beaches within 10km of the incident near the suburb of Sapphire have been closed and water police and other vessels are continuing a search for the shark.

Zach, 19, did early schooling at Korora Public where his family were local residents before moving to Port Macquarie in 2007.

He and three mates were spending the afternoon bodyboarding at a part of the unpatrolled beach known as Riecks Point when the attack happened just before 2pm.

Two weeks ago the National Bodyboarding Championships were held at Diggers Beach, just down from the site.

Friends conducted a memorial service on the beach overnight and Zach's family will visit there this afternoon.

Media spokesperson for Surf Lifesaving NSW, Donna Wishart, said the incident remains a "suspected" shark attack until marine biologists from the Department of Primary Industries examine evidence from the scene.

There were reports this morning in a metropolitan newspaper that a Great White Shark was spotted in the area in the hours leading up to the suspected attack but professional fishers believe it unlikely it made the attack and the culprit is likely to be either a Tiger or Bull Shark.

"People find it hard to believe but there are Tigers not far off the beach that can be 16-foot or longer and they are very aggressive," one said.

"It's more likely to have been a Bull as the conditions at the time were exactly how they like it.

"It was overcast, drizzling rain and the water was murky.

"There's a deep channel right alongside where the kids were surfing that's a known fishing spot and it attracts a lot of sharks."

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