(NEW YORK) -- A massive hunt is on for a 15-foot great white shark that killed a surfer, the fifth shark-attack victim off the Western Australia coast in recent months.
Australian surfer Ben Linden, 24, was killed in a sudden attack Saturday. With five people killed by sharks off the country’s beaches, the last 10 months are the deadliest period on record. Australia averages one shark-related fatality a year.
Mat Homles, 22, who was surfing with Linden, witnessed the attack.
“I just saw a shark come out of the water like it was eating a seal, there was blood everywhere and a massive, massive white shark circling the body,” Homles said.
Surfing was Ben Linden’s soul, his girlfriend Alana Noakes said.
Now helicopters and boats are scouring the waters for Linden’s remains and the shark that killed him in a lightning fast strike.
Just a few days ago in the same waters, two spear-fishermen encountered what was believed to be the same shark. Using only the tips of their spears, they prodded the shark for 10 terrifying minutes to keep it at bay before making it to safety.
Authorities have closed the beach and are baiting hooks in the water hoping to catch the shark.
Shark expert Ralph Collier says sharks do not usually carry away a human, which happened in Linden’s case, and so it seems the shark was feeding.
Collier says there are more sightings because there are more observers as the human population increases.
“The reason we have more reports is we have more surfers and boaters and kayakers recording these encounters, not that we have more sharks,” said Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Committee.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio