The scene of a shark attack on 32-year-old Ballina man Mathew Lee at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina.
The scene of a shark attack on 32-year-old Ballina man Mathew Lee at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina. Cathy Adams

How helicopter's new procedure helped save Mathew's life

UPDATE 11.40am: A NEW procedure introduced this week into the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter may have played a big part in the saving of Ballina body boarder Mathew Lee's life yesterday.

Paramedics at the scene of the attack off Lighthouse Beach administered two units of emergency blood supply in an attempt to stabilise Mr Lee after he went into cardiac arrest.

Miraculously, the helicopter only started carrying emergency blood on missions in recent days.

Westpac Life Save Rescue Helicopter spokesman Zeke Huish said it had taken about six months for local doctors to trial methods of carrying the blood suitably onboard the aircraft.

The blood is kept in a special refrigerated unit to keep it cool.

As a result of the successful trials, it's now mandated in all aeromedical services across the entire state.

"Thankfully it was onboard to assist the gentleman yesterday," Mr Huish said.

"It's a big development and obviously played a big part in (the) mission,"

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UPDATE 9.30am: SURGEONS have saved both of Mathew Lee's legs in emergency surgery with infection now their greatest concern, Skullcandy Oz Grom Open director Tony O'Brien has said.

Mr O'Brien made the comment during a radio interview confirming the surf contest had been put on hold following an incident with a shark at Lennox Head this morning.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter is currently en route to Lennox Head following reports a surfer's board was damaged in a shark attack.

The incident comes less than 30 minutes after the helicopter completed a sweep of the coast from Ballina to Lennox Head and sighted no sharks in the vicinity.

An ambulance media spokeswoman said paramedics were called to Lennox Point at 8.51am but the patient had left the scene.

All surfers are believed to have exited the water.

SLS Far North Coast Duty officer Chris Samuels said three jetskis and two inflatable rescue boats had been dispatched since the 000 call.

They are currently out on the water off the north side of Lennox Point.

All beaches in the area remain closed.

The event had kicked off today at 8am.

A kill order for the shark issued yesterday afternoon has since been revoked.

An image posted to Facebook by Suzy Garada showing her with her partner Mathew Lee, who is in hospital after being bitten by a shark at Ballina.
An image posted to Facebook by Suzy Garada showing her with her partner Mathew Lee, who is in hospital after being bitten by a shark at Ballina.

INITIAL REPORT: BALLINA man Mathew Lee, 32, is understood to be in an induced coma after undergoing surgery last night at the Gold Coast University Hospital following a harrowing shark attack off North Wall in Ballina yesterday.

However a spokesperson for the hospital said the family had requested no information be released on Mr Lee's medical condition at this stage.

Mr Lee was in a critical condition last night.

It was believed a four-metre great white shark was responsible for the attack, which resulted in severe lacerations to both of Mr Lee's legs and significant blood loss.

It's the fourth shark attack on the Northern Rivers in under a year and the second in just six months on the Ballina stretch of beach between North Wall and Shelly Beach.

The Department of Primary Industries last night issued a kill order for the shark, which had continued to loiter near the beach hours after yesterday morning's attack.

However, a police spokeswoman said authorities following the animal lost track of it late yesterday.

IN SHOCK: The scene at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, yesterday after 32-year-old Ballina man Mathew Lee was attacked by a shark.
IN SHOCK: The scene at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, yesterday after 32-year-old Ballina man Mathew Lee was attacked by a shark. Cathy Adams

Even if a four-metre great white was spotted again, it would be difficult to verify if it was the same shark.

She said the permit was issued in this instance because the shark remained in the area and posed a public safety risk. By comparison, the shark that fatally bit popular surfer Tadashi Nakahara in February left the area immediately after the attack.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter has flown out to the coast this morning to continue looking for the shark and there are suggestions one has been spotted, although it remains unclear precisely where the animal is or if it's a match for the one responsible for yesterday's attack.

Emergency services were called to Lighthouse Beach yesterday just after 10am.

Me Lee had been bodyboarding about 100m off North Wall with two friends when he was bitten.

It took paramedics and ambulance officers about an hour and a half to stabilise him enough to be airlifted to the Gold Coast University Hospital by helicopter.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter fundraising manager Zeke Huish said the patient sustained significant blood loss and required two special units of emergency blood supply to be administered on board the rescue helicopter.

As a result all beaches within the Ballina Shire were closed.

Northern NSW Surf Life Saving coordinator Scott McCartney said lifesavers were patrolling beaches in the Shire and advising people of the shark attack.

"Our main priority at the moment is to go up and down the Ballina coastline and make sure everyone is aware of what's happened," Mr McCartney said.

"Sharks can move around pretty quickly so our priority isn't just focused on Lighthouse (Beach), it's everywhere in the area."

Ballina mayor David Wright said beaches were busy given the good weather and surf conditions.

"There's about 70 or 80 surfers in the water at Lennox, and a lot along Sharpes Beach because the surf was really good and it's going to get better tomorrow, but with a shark I'm not sure what we're going to do," Cr Wright said.

The attack came a day before 270 junior surfers from across Australia were expected to compete in the Lennox Head Skullcandy Oz Grom surf competition.

Police were liaising with Surf Life Saving, Ballina council and the DPI regarding the incident.


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