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July 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Update on the Shear Water Shark Attack Incident

from the July, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In February, Austrian diver Marcus Groh was killed while photographing sharks during an organized shark feed in the Bahamas. He was aboard Jim Abernethys Shear Water, a popular and well-respected operation frequented by professional photographers. The details of the death have been sketchy until Amy Guthrie reported them in the June 12 edition of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times. Here is a synopsis.

Marcus Groh, a 49-year-old lawyer from Vienna, and two other Austrian divers settled 80 feet below the surface and positioned themselves around a plastic crate filled with fish bits. Smelling dinner, a gang of stockily-built bull sharks arrived. Shortly after 9 a.m., divemaster Grey OHara descended with a fresh crate of bait. He saw the Austrians lying supine on the sandy bottom, 20 feet apart, snapping pictures of the sharks weaving among them. OHara lashed the crate to a weight at the end of a rope dangling from the surface. The crate settled onto the ocean floor, just 10 feet from Groh. Suddenly a seven-foot-long bull shark bumped the chum box with its snout, nudging it perilously close to Groh.

OHara, anticipating trouble, rushed toward his client. A mere two feet separated bait from human. In an instant, a sand cloud obscured the horror of a shark sinking its teeth into Grohs left calf muscle, slashing through arteries and veins. Groh rolled on his back in an effort to shake the shark. OHara grabbed his customers tank and kicked the shark several times. The shark released Groh and swam away placidly.

OHara rushed Groh to the surface. Once onboard the Shear Water, Groh passed out. He was bleeding profusely. The crew and passengers swaddled him in blankets and raised the shredded leg above his heart. They poured a coagulant powder into the gaping eight-inch wound to stanch the bleeding. Boat captain Jim Abernethy radioed the U.S. Coast Guard for help; the Shear Water was anchored 65 miles east of the trauma centers in South Florida. At one point, Grohs heart stopped. The crew administered CPR. The Coast Guard chopper arrived at 10:20 a.m., 50 minutes after receiving the distress call. OHara accompanied a still-unconscious Groh to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where the diver was pronounced dead at 11:33 a.m. Groh had bled to death.

Abernethys dive shop continues to operate day trips off Palm Beach, but callers are informed that, in light of the Groh incident, the Shear Water wont be transporting passengers to shark haunts. However, on the Web site Wetpixel.com, underwater photographer Eric Cheng has posted an announcement of an Abernethy-led expedition that departs July 19 from Palm Beach County. The eight-night voyage costs $3,870 and is open to only eight divers. We screen our passengers and accept advanced divers with shark-diving experience only, Cheng warns. I hate to have to say this, but please do not book if you are squeamish about using bait to attract sharks. We will absolutely be baiting sharks and do not want to fight with you about the issue.

In our April 2008 article on Grohs death, we reported that the Bahamas Diving Association was trying to ban openwater, non-cage dives in Bahamian waters. Stuart Cove, of Stuart Coves Dive Bahamas and vice-president of the Association, told Undercurrent in June that the government hasnt made any changes to shark dives to date.

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