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Paramedic tells of fight to save shark attack victim Laeticia

Paramedic tells of fight to save shark attack victim Laeticia Laeticia Brouwer and the scene in Esperance on April 17, 2017.
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Harrowing final moments: Esperance St John Ambulance community paramedic Paul Gaughan with emergency services desperately trying to save 17-year-old Laeticia Brouwer’s life, at the Wylie Bay Beach car park, as her family watch on. Photo: Caitlyn Rintoul.

Esperance shark attack victim Laeticia Brouwer. Photo: Supplied

Esperance Police acting senior sergeant Ben Jeffes with the surfboard. Authorities are inspecting the mauled surfboard to determine the species of shark involved in the fatal attack. Photo: Caitlyn Rintoul

TweetFacebookEsperance Express, I have spoken to community paramedic PaulGaughanmany times in the year I have worked in the scenic coastal town 700 kilometres south-east of Perth.

I’ve interviewed him about all sorts of issues and incidents around the region.

But it was still a shock to suddenly see him onMonday afternoon, standing over motionlessLaeticia Brouwerat the back of an ambulance pumping her chest in a desperate attempt to save the17-year-old surfer.

Under grey skies, with the beach looking far from its usual idyllic turquoise water and pristine white sand, Esperance’s off-road ambulance and a convoy of other four-wheel-drives had just driven off the beach.

In the middle of a chaotic, traumatic, heartbreaking scene in the beach car park, my eyes were fixed on MrGaughan, the St John Ambulance paramedic, as he fought for the teenager’s life: he was focused and composed.

When he initially took the call about a shark attack about 4pm on Easter Monday, MrGaughan’sheart sank.

MsBrouwerhad just been pulled from the water at a surfing spot known as the Kelp Beds on nearby Wylie Bay Beach.

“I got the call and heard that it was a shark attack, I just got in my vehicle and went straight away,” MrGaughansaid.

Paul Gaughan#BREAKING: A 17-year-old girl has died from her injuries, after a shark attack at Kelp Beds in Wylie Bay. #[email protected]南京夜网/kVXn9s8Aq6

— Caitlyn Rintoul (@caitlynrintoul) April 17, 2017

“We are terribly heartbroken and saddened by this tragic accident,”her tearful uncle Steve Evans saidas he thanked emergency service workers the next day.

“We can take comfort thatLaeticiadied doing something that she loved,” he said.

“The ocean was her and her family’s passion. Surfing was something she treasured doing with her Dad and her sisters.”

In a message later shared on social media, the Brouwer familysaid they had been“overwhelmed with care and love from the Esperance community and the people that helped –you were amazing”.

“There were people standing on the beach with my younger daughters for a long time that I didn’t get to thank.

“The nurse who did CPR while I breathed for Teesh (Laeticia). All the paramedics and the police officers who went above and beyond. We thank you all.”

The death of MsBrouwer, the 15th person killed by a shark in Western Australia since 2000, has sparked a political debate over the culling of sharks.

The state’s new Labor state government has said drum lines would no longer be dropped to catch dangerous sharks following fatalities.

“We made it clear in opposition that we don’t see the merit in automatically deploying drum lines because they don’t actually make our beaches any safer,” Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said.

“We want to focus on promoting individual shark deterrents which can actually provide genuine protection for the people most at risk.”

At a Senate committee hearing into shark mitigation held in Perth on Thursday, Surf Life Saving Western Australia general manager Chris Peck said 4600 people had been cleared from the water at Perth beaches after shark warnings over the past two years.

“Our lifeguards have cleared thousands of people from the water… lives have been saved,” Mr Peck said.

But most shark attacks did not occur on the state’s 16 patrolled beaches, he said.

Mr Peck, along with shark researchers from the University of Western Australia and representatives from Sea Shepherd Australia, Shark Shield and Shark Alert, will provide evidence to the Senate inquiry.

The previous Liberal government authorised baited drum lines in Perth and beaches in the state’s south-west from January 2014.

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