Sydney Harbour shark attack victim identified as local kayaker

The shocking ordeal has prompted a warning from experts to Sydneysiders to stay out of harbour waters at night.

The young woman who was mauled by a shark in Sydney Harbour on Monday night been identified as 29-year-old local kayaker Lauren O'Neill.

O'Neill was swimming off a private wharf at Elizabeth Bay at 7.45pm on Monday when she was attacked by the animal, believed to have been a bull shark. The 29-year-old is understood to be a local, having recently purchased property in Elizabeth Bay, a harbourside suburb in the city's east.

O'Neill, a keen kayaker, suffered serious injuries to her right leg, losing a significant amount of blood during the ordeal. She was pulled from the water onto the jetty covered in blood, where she was treated by a local vet who applied a tourniquet, before being taken to St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst.

Lauren O'Neill, 29, was attacked by a shark last night at Elizabeth Bay.
Lauren O'Neill, 29, was attacked by a shark on Monday night at Elizabeth Bay in Sydney Harbour. Source: NCA

Onlookers say 'blood was everywhere'

O'Neill's neighbour Michael Porter was one of the first people on the scene and heard her "soft yell" before rushing to help. Describing the scene, he said there "was blood everywhere".

"Her leg was sort of trailing behind her… and the water behind her was all red with blood," he said.

It is understood O'Neill was swimming around boats close to the shore when she was attacked.

A large police and ambulance presence rushed to Billyard Avenue following reports the woman had been pulled out of the water after being mauled. Porter said she was swimming outside a "netted harbour pool" and "around the boats".

Witness Michael Porter at the scene.
Witness Michael Porter, the victim's neighbour, was first on the scene. Source: NCA

He also said the quick-thinking actions of his neighbours, including a vet named Fiona, potentially saved the woman’s life. "She was an absolute hero and I think saved her life," he said.

"She had wraps and tourniquets and just got straight into emergency mode, and we were all just sort of there together as a team."

Lauren O'Neill being rushed to hospital from Elizabeth Bay.
O'Neill was rushed to St Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst where she remains in a stable condition. Source: Facebook

Night swimming in harbour 'not a great idea', expert warns

Shark expert and marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said the shark was likely to have been a bull shark. He also said swimming at night was "not a great idea".

"We need to make it so that education is more readily available, that swimming at night in the Harbour is just not a great idea," Chlebeck said on Today, recalling that abattoirs used to pour remains into the harbour decades ago, resulting in sharks returning to the spot to eat.

He said swimming at night in the harbour was "not advisable". "It’s an area of high shark activity,” Chlebeck explained. "We know that the Harbour has this shark activity. People need to be aware of the risk. During the day, in full sun, is when sharks are a little less active.

"Their sensors are heightened in the evening and early mornings. Those are the times I would avoid swimming in the Harbour."

Lauren O'Neill, 29, after being attacked by a shark at Elizabeth Bay.
Onlookers described the shocking scene, revealing if it weren't for the quick-thinking actions of a vet, O'Neill may not have survived. Source: NCA

Another local resident known as Georgia witnessed the shocking ordeal and said it was her wife Fiona, that was the vet who potentially saved O'Neill's life. "We heard a shout and she swam up to a boat, but on the way back she got bitten by a bull shark," she told 9 News.

"My wife's a vet and she basically bandaged it up… it's pretty hectic actually, but she seems to be OK, she's been in a lot of shock and so am I. We got some bandages, we kept her warm, and my wife basically bandaged her up to stop the bleeding."

She said if the 29-year-old had been further out in the water, "she wouldn't have survived".

"People were holding her hand and helping her. [Lauren] was extremely brave the whole time and she was very lucid," Porter said.

"She was talking and thanking us for getting the ambulance."

with NCA

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