Panama City, Florida (AP) – A Florida family is mourning after their 32-year-old son, an avid diver and boater, was killed by a great white shark while diving alone off Australia’s southwest coast.
George Thomas Wainwright, who died Saturday, was the third man attacked by a great white shark off Australia’s southwest coast in two months.
Wainwright’s two companions said the diver was already dead when his body surfaced beside their boat moments after a flurry of bubbles had erupted on the gray ocean surface.
The shark, a 10-foot great white, surfaced and even nudged the dive boat as Wainwright’s friends hauled in his remains and powered for shore, officials said.
As a child, family members said Wainwright was always on the water pursuing his loves: boating, fishing and diving.
In Panama City, he was among the youngest residents to get his captain’s license and later ran a charter boat business, his younger sister Wanda Brannon, 30, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
“That was just his love and passion was being on the water,” she said.
Wainwright also helped with the Gulf oil spill cleanup and appeared in a BP video, she said. He moved to Australia six months ago taking a job as a project manager with a marine company.
Brannon said her brother loved Australia’s beautiful landscapes and relished his new adventures there. He had recently emailed family members about returning to Florida for a Christmas visit.
“He was just an amazing individual with a love and a passion for the outdoors and for his family,” Brannon said through tears.
Wainwright’s death has brought national attention to Australia’s southwest coast, which has been better known for whale and dolphin-watching cruises, white sandy beaches and world-class surf breaks than for fatal shark attacks.
Scientists said three sharks are more likely responsible, and the three cases are likely unfortunate encounters with nature.
The state government set tuna-baited hooks off the island Sunday, the first time authorities have used an emergency legal exemption from the state protection of great whites as an endangered species in the interests of protecting the public.
Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett also said his government would consider shark culls, responding to locals’ complaints that shark numbers are increasing off bustling beaches in one of Australia’s fastest growing population areas.