"The water around her was all still red where she just got out of the water," recalled one witness
After Lauren O'Neill’s right leg was bitten and severely injured, surgeons worked through the evening and avoided amputation.
The avid kayaker and swimmer was attacked around 7:45 p.m. after she swam in Elizabeth Bay, per Sky News. O'Neill began yelling in the water, and local civilians rushed to her side to assist her out of the water and provide first aid techniques.
Dr. Fiona Cargo, a witness who works as a veterinarian, was credited with possibly saving O'Neill’s life after she applied a tourniquet to her leg — which is a device that applies pressure to a limb to stop blood flow.
"I think Fiona saved her life. She’s a complete hero," witness Michael Porter told Sky News. "We just sat down there with her… I stayed on the phone with the ambulance following their instructions."
"From the knee down was completely open. It was like the worst horror movie you’ve ever seen," said Porter. "She was pretty lucid though and responsive... she just kept saying ‘Thank you for calling the ambulance, I’m grateful,’ that sort of thing.”
"I’m not sure if she totally knew the extent of how bad it appeared her leg was and she was losing a lot of blood,” Porter told Sky News. "The water around her was all still red where she just got out of the water."
First responders then transported her to St Vincent's Hospital. She underwent extensive surgery and is set to recover in the hospital’s intensive care unit over the next few days.
O'Neill shared a statement via the St. Vincent’s Health Australia hospital with NCA NewsWire and thanked those who assisted and her “beautiful family, friends and colleagues.”
"She wishes to thank her heroic and very kind neighbors for the critical assistance they provided her," read the statement. “Lauren is also immensely grateful to the [New South Wales] NSW Ambulance paramedics and Kings Cross Police for their swift and caring actions at the scene.”
“She would also like to thank the public for their outpouring of support and kindness, and as she turns to focusing on her recovery, asks that her privacy, and that of her family’s be respected,” the statement read.
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While the harbor is known to be a bull shark habitat, shark attacks are rare in the surrounding area.
Dr. Amy Smoothey, a NSW Department of Primary Industries shark ecologist, told Sky News that this species of shark is typically more active around dawn or dusk. "Avoid murky waters during lowlight periods," said Smoothey.
"Our advice is to avoid shallow areas adjacent to steep drop-offs and also after heavy rain or when the water’s murky,” added the shark ecologist. "Bull sharks are a great ambush predator so they’ve got the senses and they can detect us and we won’t be able to see them."
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