Woman attacked by shark in Sydney Harbour

Ms O'Neill pulled herself to safety on a nearby wharf and members of the public ran to help her
Ms O'Neill pulled herself to safety on a nearby wharf and members of the public ran to help her

A woman has been taken to hospital with “serious” bite wounds to her leg after being mauled by a shark while swimming in Sydney Harbour.

Lauren O’Neill, 29, was swimming near a private wharf at Elizabeth Bay around 7.45pm (8.45am GMT) on Monday, less than 2 km (1.2 miles) from Sydney’s Opera House, when she was bitten by the suspected bull shark.

New South Wales Police in a statement said she suffered a “serious injury to her right leg”.

Neighbours went to help the victim, with one resident telling the Sydney Morning Herald he heard a “soft yell” for help from his window. He then saw the woman trying to climb a ladder out of the harbour’s waters.

Shark attack victim Lauren O’Neill
Lauren O’Neill suffered a 'serious injury to her right leg'

“She was trying to climb in and behind her was her leg, which was completely open and full of dark red blood behind her,” Michael Porter told the paper.

“She had obviously been mauled extremely badly by whatever shark it was that got her.

“It was surreal. We have always been worried and known about sharks in the harbour ... it’s only now that it feels very real.”

According to witnesses, Ms O’Neill dragged herself to safety onto a nearby wharf.

A vet living nearby applied tourniquets and bandages to stem the bleeding of her wound until paramedics arrived.

“She swam out to the boat and on her way back she got bitten by, I think it was, a bull shark,” another witness told local news outlet OnScene Bondi.

“We ran out. My wife’s a vet and she basically bandaged it up.”

Ms O’Neill remains in a stable condition in intensive care at St Vincent’s Hospital, where she is expected to undergo surgery.

Shark attacks in Sydney Harbour are rare, but the area is known to be an important habitat for bull sharks and their young.

Shark scientist Amy Smoothey said a “bull shark was likely responsible” following an analysis of the bite and images provided by authorities.

Paramedics arrived and rushed her to St Vincent’s Hospital
Paramedics arrived and rushed her to St Vincent’s Hospital

She told broadcaster ABC that sharks were “more actively feeding” in low light at dawn and dusk, making it “potentially a high-risk time to be swimming”.

Tagging indicates that bull shark numbers in the harbour were at their highest in the Australian summer months of January and February, Ms Smoothey said.

“Shark bites are really rare although they are very tragic when they do occur and my thoughts are with the victim,” she told the broadcaster.

It was Sydney’s first shark attack in the harbour since 2009, when an Australian navy diver was mauled by a bull shark during a training exercise in Woolloomooloo Bay.

In February 2022, 35-year-old British diving instructor Simon Nellist was killed by a 3m (9ft 10in) great white shark at Little Bay, which was Sydney’s first fatal shark attack since 1963.

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