Fr. Liam Ryan, a long-time surfer, was on vacation visiting his best friend in Western Australia when, on the afternoon of July 31, he noticed a fellow surfer in distress.
“I saw him off his board, looking really lost and there was half a board floating there,” Ryan, 33, told The Catholic Leader, the publication of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.
Ryan was surfing at Bunker Bay, about 60 miles southwest of Bunbury.
Ryan said it was ominously quiet before the great white shark, which had bitten Phil Mummert’s board in half, resurfaced to continue its attack.
“And then we saw this huge breach. The shark rolled onto him… and then went back under,” Ryan told The Catholic Leader.
According to Mummert and witnesses, Mummert used half of his broken board to try and beat the shark away, and pummeled the shark’s head with his bare hands, local news station 7News Perth reported.
Ryan later told 7News Perth that the shark, which was approximately 13-16 feet long, was “big enough to make grown men cry.”
“I started screaming ‘help him, help him,’” Ryan told The Catholic Leader.
Fortunately the priest’s calls for help were heard by another nearby surfer, Alex Oliver, who swam towards Mummert and hoisted him on his longboard, which he and Ryan then paddled to shore.
According to The Catholic Leader, Mummert was “bleeding profusely” by the time they reached shore, having sustained deep shark bites in his upper leg.
“As soon as we got into the shallows, someone clamped the wound with his hand to slow the bleeding,” Fr. Ryan said.
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