Great white knocks teen girl off kayak

A COURAGEOUS father has saved his teenage daughter from a rampaging four-metre great white shark off Normanville in Adelaide's south, declaring that if he'd taken 10 seconds longer, "I'd have one less child".

Chris Williams, 56, said his family was kayaking and squidding in the pristine waters of Lady Bay about an hour south of Adelaide on Sunday.

But the perfect afternoon quickly turned into a nightmare when Sarah, 15, alone in a double kayak, was suddenly flung into the air.

Chris Williams with his daughter Sarah, 15, who was knocked off her kayak by a great white shark. Picture: Matt Turner
Chris Williams with his daughter Sarah, 15, who was knocked off her kayak by a great white shark. Picture: Matt Turner

Sarah said she had been messing around with her brother and singing songs when the attack began.

"The next thing I know, a shark was hitting my kayak from below," she said. "It flipped my kayak ... as soon as I hit the water, I saw the fin and the tail and I thought: 'This is like the Jaws movie'."

Sarah said her feet touched the shark's body as she scrambled back into her kayak. "I basically used the body weight of the shark to get back up," she said.

The ferocious attack left teeth marks on the underside of the kayak. Watching it unfold only metres away in a small aluminium tinny were Mr Williams, his son Mitchell, 22, and daughter Misty, 33.

"I started the motor quickly, did a U-turn to get back and I told Mitchell to get on his knees in the boat and lean over and grab Sarah and drag her in," he said.

"I've hit the shark and the kayak ... and (Mitchell) dragged her over the kayak to get her into the boat."

Mr Williams, who is an alpaca farmer, said the white water of the shark thrashing around combined with Sarah's screaming created an indescribable sound.

Sarah’s father Chris Williams shows the teeth marks on the kayak. Picture: First on Scene Media
Sarah’s father Chris Williams shows the teeth marks on the kayak. Picture: First on Scene Media

Sarah said that during the seconds it took for her dad to get to her, she could feel the shark biting on the back end of her kayak. But even with Sarah in the tinny, their ordeal was far from over, as tangled fishing lines on the tinny began dragging the battered kayak behind, with the shark following.

"The haunting thing was when the shark was following us afterwards ... this enormous shark saying: 'I'm not finished with your guys yet'," Mr Williams said. "This wild beast was about to eat my daughter ... it was unprovoked; we weren't using berley or bait, but it attacked her ... is someone (else) going to die?"

Sarah, the youngest of six children, said she alternated between "cool and collected" and finally crying once the ordeal was over.

She was taken by ambulance to the South Coast District Hospital at Victor Harbor where she was treated for shock and minor cuts to her leg and foot. One cut was believed to be from climbing into the kayak but the other was unexplained and a scrape from a shark's tooth had not been ruled out. She left hospital a short time after being admitted and is home and resting on the family's farm.


Fighting back tears, Mr Williams said the family was only just coming to terms with its ordeal. "It wasn't like the shark circled her; this shark was going to eat my daughter," he said.

"If we'd been 50m away and not 30m away, or had I taken an extra 10 seconds to get to her, or had the outboard motor not started on the first pull, I would have one less child."

Sarah, a sports fan who has played soccer in an Australian under-16 team in England and France, is the daughter of Adrienne Clarke, the first female firefighter in the Metropolitan Fire Service. Ms Clarke was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal in the 2016 Australia Day Honours.

The Surf Life Saving SA rescue helicopter arrived not long after and it was able to herd the shark away.

Surf Life Saving SA media manager, Sita Bacher said, crews attended in the Westpac rescue helicopter after being tasked by police to help from the air and quickly spotted the shark matching the description.

"They cleared the water ... and the shark was herded out multiple times," she said.

But she played down speculation of large numbers of shark sightings. "We haven't had a huge amount of shark alerts yet, given it's still early in the season," she said.

"We had a sighting of a similar-sized shark on Friday night at Port Noarlunga and South Port."

The Williams family is unsure when they will head back in the water again. "Out of this whole sh...y afternoon, she's OK, but maybe the Williams family's watersports days are over," Mr Williams said.