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Australian Spearfishing Safety Initiative

Deaths Spark Safety Push


  Kelmeny Fraser 

  From: The Sunday Mail (Qld) 

  January 10, 2010 12:00AM 

TRAGEDY: Lifesaving star Jacob Lollback (left) at Bondi Beach in 2007; and Luke Randell who was injured by a propeller while spear-fishing in 2006.

THEY were in the prime of their lives, physically fit and experienced in the water. But for each, a simple spear-fishing trip - something they had done dozens of times before - ended in disaster.

A series of high-profile deaths and shocking injuries of young sportsmen while spear-fishing, including the death of 20-year-old Gold Coast ironman Jacob Lollback on September 22, has led to plans for a major new safety campaign.

One of those working on the campaign is New South Wales man James Sakker, who was on the same fateful five-day spear-fishing trip 75km northeast of Gladstone as Jacob Lollback.

A decision on whether an inquest would be held is yet to be made, but Lollback is believed to have drowned after blacking out in shallow water while spear-fishing, which involves free- diving or diving without oxygen tanks.

Lollback was a rising surf lifesaving star who had moved to the Gold Coast to compete after 15 years of lifesaving.

His age and physical fitness created a swirl of questions about how he could lose his life in the water. Mr Sakker is now working on a spear-fishing safety DVD, to be released for sale next year in dive shops. "It was a terrible tragedy and obviously I am deeply disturbed by it happening," Mr Sakker said."I decided I had to try to improve safety in the sport and get the message out to other divers.

"There are a lot of new people getting into the sport, and the majority are not members of

clubs so they are learning from magazines and internet forums and things like that."

Shallow water blackout has been described as the curse of the fittest and most experienced divers, who are more likely to push their bodies to the limit.

Mr Sakker said divers could be caught out thinking they had more oxygen left than theyactually did, as the body used less oxygen at a depth of 10-20m as it was under pressure giving the impression there was plenty of air left.

On surfacing, that pressure lessened and the lungs returned to their normal size, which could rapidly suck oxygen out of the blood and lead to a sudden lack of consciousness, often just before or after surfacing.

The accident was not a one-off, with Victorian television fishing show presenter Neil Tedesco drowning while free-dive training at a local gym pool in Frankston, sending shockwaves through the fishing community.

In November last year, popular 21-year-old Sunshine Coast university student and experienced diver Jason Palmer drowned while on a spear-fishing trip off Caloundra.

Spear-fisherman Mark Bryant, 31, also lost his life while free-diving off the Tweed Coast in early 2004.Many attributed the death to a blackout.

There have also been horrific injuries, including those of a Sunshine Coast man who was hit by a boat propeller in June last year at Flinders Reef, breaking his femur, tibia, fibula and ribs, puncturing his left lung and rupturing his spleen, kidney and bowel. He spent two weeks in an induced coma and suffered a stroke. Luke Randell, of the inner-city suburb of Clayfield, is lucky to be alive after being hit by a propeller while spear-fishing at a shipwreck at Main Beach on the Gold Coast in 2006, leaving him in hospital for six weeks. The blade missed a major artery by 5mm, which would have sealed his fate.

Shark bite 'didn't hurt' says diver


Chris Barrett December 21, 2009


Shark attack victim John Pengelly, 19, in recovery after emergency surgery at Royal

Brisbane Hospital.

Photo: Chris Barrett

The teenage spearfishing champion attacked by a bull shark off Gladstone yesterday says he felt no pain, despite being left with severed tendons and arteries on his arm from the frightening confrontation. John Pengelly, 19, spoke this afternoon for the first time about the attack at Lamont Reef, 80km east of Gladstone, that occurred while he was freediving with two friends. He said he had just returned to the surface after shooting a Mangrove Jack fish when the shark struck. Mr Pengelly praised the calm resolve of his friends, who used shirts to wrap his wounds before racing him back to Heron Island for medical attention.

"I was talking to my mate then I got hit from underneath by a bull mate said it was 2.5 to three metres," said Mr Pengelly, now recovering after surgery on his arm at Royal Brisbane Hospital.

"After he hit me it was just 'don't panic'. Both me and my mates looked at each other and told each other not to panic and made our way back to the boat.

"I trust my two mates that I dive with and they handled it well. If I wasn't diving with my partners I definitely wouldn't be here right now."

Asked whether the shark attack hurt, Mr Pengelly replied: "No not at all. Me and my two dive partners were actually having a laugh about it on the way back in to the island.

"The adrenaline must have still been running - there wasn't much pain at all until I got to surgery. The most I felt was his body hitting me, which was like attackinga football."

Mr Pengelly's half-hour journey back to Heron Island took much longer than it should have, however. As revealed by today, a group of nearby fishermen on a larger, faster vessel refused to transport him and his friends back to land, leaving them to make their way in their five-metre fibreglass boat. He said he was disappointed the fishermen did not offer to help, although they did radio through to Heron Island to report the incident.

"After I got hit there was a much bigger and [more] stable boat that could have got me there a lot quicker," Mr Pengelly said.

"Unfortunately they refused to help. They did manage to radio into Heron Island, I'll give them that, that definitely did help. But we were a bit disappointed that they couldn't get me in quicker.

"Apparently they were fishing overnight out there. It definitely did irritate us."

Mr Pengelly, who has regained feeling in his fingers but has been told to "take it easy" for 12 weeks and undergo intense physiotherapy, said he had "no hard feelings" against the shark that seriously wounded him.

He said the experience would not deter him from resuming spearfishing once his recovery is complete.

"We're divers in their waters. If he wanted to eat me he would have," he said.

"It was just an enquiry bite.

"I'll definitely be a bit more aware of their presence but I've swum with up to 10 at a time on previous weekends and they've never really seemed to bother me.

"Just wrong place, mistaken identity." ... -l9wj.html

Shark Bites Diver at Lamont Reef

Miranda Cashin | 21st December 2009 

GLADSTONE freediving champion John Pengelly was bitten by a three metre bull shark while diving at Lamont Reef early yesterday morning.

The 19-year-old suffered deep lacerations to his wrist and lower forearm while spearfishing at the reef, 44 nautical miles east of Gladstone.

After receiving treatment from medical staff on Herron Island he was flown to Rockhampton and air-lifted to Brisbane for surgical assessment.

At the time of print Mr Pengelly was in a stable condition.

Diving with fellow Curtis Coast Spearfishing members David Jenson and Nat Keene, it was their first dive of the day when the shark came from below and bit Mr Pengelly.

“The shark nipped him on the hand, but it was not an aggressive nip but an enquiry nip,” said Mark Brookes, president of Curtis Coast Spearfishing club, who was also diving at the time.

Mr Brookes said he was surprised by the shark’s strike as there seemed to be no reason for the shark to be aggressive.

“The reason spearfishers attract attention from sharks is when they shoot a fish it flaps around and grabs the attention of the shark. But John hadn’t shot anything,” Mr Brookes said. “It was a shock as it was totally unprovoked.”

Mr Jenson said it was simply a case of mistaken identity.

“There were two guys together and to the shark they probably looked like a turtle,” he said.

“John was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mr Keene told The Observer sharks were “just something you deal with”.

“As spearfishers you know that you are going into a shark’s habitat. As lovers of the ocean we are respectful of the fish and sharks and the shark was just doing its job,” he said. ... mont-reef/

Swimmer shot in back with speargun

Posted Sun Sep 13, 2009 6:14pm AEST 

Updated Mon Sep 14, 2009 1:15am AEST 

A man who was shot in the back in a spear-fishing accident says medics told him he came within millimetres of death as the metre-long spear penetrated his chest.

Brett Clarke was swimming with friends at Cape Schanck on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula when he was struck by the spear.

Mr Clarke, who is now recovering in Melbourne's Alfred Hospital, says the spear's tip came within millimetres of his heart.

"It went in up through my ribs, up into my lungs, on the left-hand side there, and the nurses here say I must have someone looking out for me upstairs," he said.

"It missed my heart by millimetres - I'm a very lucky boy."

MICA Flight paramedic Kyle Lee arrived at the scene around noon on Sunday to find Mr Clarke badly injured on the beach.

"The spear was still hanging out of his back, about a metre-long steel rod," Mr Lee said. 

"It penetrated his internal organs and into his lung. 

"He was conscious at the time and required a chest tube to drain air that was ccumulating in his lung that was making it difficult to breathe, as well as for some pain relief."


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