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16-year-old girl dies after shark attack in Australian river


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A teenage girl died on Saturday after being attacked by a shark while swimming in a river in western Australia, local police said.

The 16-year-old girl was rescued from the Swan River, about 10 miles from the center of Perth, with “serious injuries”, according to Western Australia Police, who responded to the attack.

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The girl, who has not been identified by police, was riding a jet ski with friends when she possibly jumped into the water to swim with dolphins, Paul Robinson, Fremantle District Inspector of Western Australia Police, told a news conference.

He said the girl died at the scene from her injuries, but did not say exactly what they were. “It is an extremely traumatic event for everyone involved,” he added. “It’s unusual for a shark to be this far down a river.”

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The headmaster of Scotch College, a private boys’ school in Perth, identified the girl as Stella Berry, the daughter of one of the staff. Two boys from school, friends of hers, were the first to help her, wrote the principal, Alec J. O’Connell, in a letter to the community.

Australia has the second highest number of unprovoked shark attacks, behind only the United States. This type of incident happens when there is no provocation to the shark, and the animal is in its natural habitat. In 2021, there were 12 attacks in Australia, and three of them were fatal. Occurrences in rivers, however, are considered rare.

Johan Gustafson, an ecologist at Griffith University in Queensland, said that although sharks are always circling around to feed on fish, the chances of being bitten by the animal, particularly in a river, are very small.

“This could have just been one of those misidentification scenarios,” said Gustafson. He says that swimming or surfing during the day, outside of the animal’s feeding times, is one of the best ways to reduce risk.

Six other shark attacks, one fatal, were recorded in the Swan River, according to the Australian Shark Incident Database. The most recent was from 2021, when a 50-year-old man was bitten in the leg by a 2- to 2.5-meter-long bull shark. The species may enter estuaries and freshwater river systems.

Authorities are still trying to determine what type of shark was involved in Saturday’s attack, but state fisheries secretary Don Punch told a news conference the animal could be a bull shark.

Additional protective measures to protect beachgoers from sharks in the region could be considered, Punch said. He said that after the incident, the nearest beach was closed and the river was patrolled.

“You can’t effectively close the river,” Punch said, “when we know shark attacks can happen anywhere.”

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