A 35-year-old British diving instructor has been identified as the person killed in a shark attack at a Sydney beach, Australian media reported, as officials reopened beaches after the first fatal attack off the city in nearly 60 years.
Simon Nellist, who moved to Australia about six years ago, was killed on Wednesday off Little Bay beach, about 20km (12 miles) south of Australia’s largest city while training for a weekend charity swim event, reports said, citing his friends.
Nellist, a former UK Royal Air Force serviceman, was a member of the city’s scuba diving club and a regular swimmer at the beach. Police had not yet formally identified the victim.
“The news hit us like a truck because he is really one of the people who make this earth better,” Della Ross, diving instructor and friend, told Australia’s Seven News on Friday.
Authorities have set up drumlines, which are used to bait sharks, near the attack site, while drones and helicopters were searching to see if the shark was still in the area.
“There have been no further sighting of sharks in the area, so beaches have been cleared to reopen on Friday 18 February 2022,” Local Randwick City Mayor Dylan Parker said.
Shortly after dawn on Friday, about 100 swimmers at Bondi Beach stood in a circle on the sand and, heads bowed, paid their respects to Nellist.
They then entered the surf en masse, and after a ritual swim beyond the breaking waves, regrouped to form another vast circle in moving tribute.
The man’s former employers before he moved to Australia, the Queen’s Hotel in Penzance, Cornwall, said they were “shocked” by his death.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Simon Nellist and his family, fiancee and friends at this sad time,” the hotel said on Facebook, describing him as a “wonderful man”.
Shark attacks near Sydney’s beaches are rare due to the presence of specially designed “shark nets” that reduce the chance of a shark attack but do not create a total barrier between swimmers and sharks.
It was the first fatal shark attack in Sydney since 1963, data showed.