Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bondi Shark Attack

During 1928 and 1929, in a period just 9 months apart, two terrible shark attacks occurred at Bondi Beach, sending shock waves through the Sydney coastal communities.

Bondi Beach, circa 1930.

Saturday 14th April 1928 was an overcast and showery day and two young men Maxwell Steele, aged 19, and his younger brother Harry were on patrol duty as Bondi Surf Life Savers. At about 4 pm they decided to go for a swim and soon after Maxwell, whilst treading water only a short distance out, was seized by a large shark. The fish had him by the leg but he was able to free himself and make for the shore.

He survived the attack but tragically lost his leg.

Not so lucky was 14 year old Colin James Stewart who was attacked by a large shark in the same area on Saturday 12th January 1929. A newspaper account  of the 14th described the event:

After an amazing display of fortitude and courage, Colin James Stewart aged 14 years, who was attacked by a 10 ft shark in the surf at Bondi beach late on Saturday afternoon died in St. Vincent's Hospital at half past 7 o'clock yesterday morning.

Young Stewart, a fine type of lad and exceedingly well built received shocking injuries. The shark apparently made two vicious attacks on Stewart, and tore away a great portion of his back and a large piece of flesh from the boys right leg and thigh.

The boy was only up to his waist in water when he was attacked and as soon as it was realised that he had been bitten by a shark many other bathers, including members of the Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, went to his assistance.

Although badly mutilated, Stewart, while being assisted from the water, was able to tell his rescuers his name and address. Some time after admission to hospital he became semi conscious and remained in that state until he died, 13 hours after he was attacked by the shark.

Colin Stewart - attacked and killed by a shark at Bondi, 12th January 1929.

It was later revealed that another young man, Robert Kavanagh, had risked his life in pulling Stewart from the sharks jaws before others arrived to render assistance. He was later awarded the Albert Medal for bravery.

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