Shark fatally attacks Jamaican fisherman

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – A large shark fatally attacked a spear fisherman on Tuesday as he dove in waters miles off the coast of southern Jamaica, according to authorities and colleagues of the dead man.

Police identified the victim as 68-year-old George Facey of the western town of Savanna-la-Mar. They said he was among a group of Jamaican fishermen who left the Old Harbour Bay Fishing Beach early in the day and encountered sharks while diving off a remote cay located some three miles off the south coast.

Compton Campbell, a local fisherman who was close friends with Facey, said he was told by colleagues that the veteran spear fisherman got separated from the group and was attacked by a possibly 16-foot-long (4.8-meter-long) shark, likely a tiger shark.

“It’s awful and a big shock. That shark shredded him up. I knew him very well and I can tell you that he was a very good man, a good Christian,” Campbell said during a phone interview.

Police said that Facey was bitten several times. As the big shark circled, his companions managed to retrieve his bleeding body from the water and returned to shore, according to fishermen.

Anthony Daley, a fisherman who was on the Tuesday fishing trip, told The Jamaica Gleaner newspaper that he saw the shark that killed Facey and it was the largest he had ever witnessed in a decade of fishing.

“Me fish everywhere in Jamaica and even as far away as Honduras and this is the biggest shark me ever see. The shark is definitely a killer because George never have any fish for it to kill him for. It is just a devil shark,” the Gleaner quoted Daley as saying in the Caribbean island’s patois.

Brandon Hay, a scientific officer who works in southern Jamaican for a conservation group called the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, said striped, blunt-nosed tiger sharks are sometimes spotted in the waters off Pelican Cay where the fisherman was killed.

“If anyone is going to be bitten by a tiger shark chances are it will be a spear fisherman,” Hay said.

The foundation’s executive director, Ingrid Parchment, said she could not recall any other fatal shark attacks in Jamaican waters.

“Sharks are not a big fear here,” she said Tuesday evening.

Earlier this year, an 18-year-old fisherman was severely wounded by a shark in Black River, another coastal community in southern Jamaica.

Around the world, sharks attacked humans 80 times last year, and seven people were killed, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. The death toll was lower than it was in 2011 but higher than the average of 4.4 from 2001 to 2010.

Last month in New Zealand, a shark possibly 14-feet long killed a 46-year-old television and short film director near a popular beach then disappeared after police attempting to save the man fired gunshots at it. Surf lifesavers said they were convinced it was a great white shark.

In 2010, police in the Bahamas found two legs, two arms and a severed torso in the stomach of a 12-foot tiger shark caught off the Exuma islands.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter/com/dmcfadd

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