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NINETEEN Years Ago -
COASTWEEK, April 09 - 16, 1999:

Coastweek -- Yachstman Survives Shark Attack Off Pemba Island

A PLUCKY South African yachtsman who survived a shark attack off Pemba Island, Tanzania, has warmly thanked Kenyan doctors, surgeons and clinical staff in saving both his life and limb.

Grenville Dunbar, a computer consultant from Johannesburg, South Africa, was swimming off the ‘Fundu Gap’, a prime diving location just West of Pemba, when his right arm and wrist was badly mauled by a large shark.

He told Coastweek in Mombasa:

“It was about 3.30 p.m.

“I was wearing a black lycra wet suit and swimming slowly on the surface when I was quite suddenly  hit by the shark.

“I didn’t see it coming ... and I didn’t see it go.

“ I knew immediately that I had been badly injured because of all the blood in the water.

“There was no pain.

“I suppose I was in shock.

“It looked a mess”.

Close by was a ‘safety’ dinghy which was following his wife Annete Dunbar and her friend who were both down 15 metres looking over the spectacular coral ‘drop-off’ which inclines dramatically to the continental shelf.

“The boat came over to me in about half a minute.

“I was on sheer adrenaline.

“I just pulled myself up with my good arm and collapsed into the dinghy.

“There was blood everywhere.

“ It was spurting out where the artery and veins had been slashed open.

“I tried to stop the bleeding.

“I could put my whole hand into the open wound.”

The shark’s mouth and teeth had stripped his arm from above the elbow and all the way down to the wrist.

Three minutes later his wife and her companion were also out of the water and in about half an hour they were at their sailing yacht ‘Summer Breeze’, which was moored close to Pemba Island.

Here they were joined by Kenya skipper Joe Leichum of Mtwapa in his yacht ‘Sundance’ .

After staunching the blood with a ‘tourniquet’ and a large ship board bandage it was decided to head for help in Kenya.

A ‘May Day’ distress call was sent by sea radio to the Pemba Channel Fishing Club at Shimoni, who in turn arranged for immediate medical attention on arrival, transport to Mombasa and emergency staff on ‘standy by’ at the Mombasa Hospital.

“I was still losing blood and full of pain killers on the trip over to Shimoni and it seemed alright when we arrived around 8.20 p.m.

“But I was very weak because I collapsed on the way up from the jetty and I was later told that the medical staff there had given me three bottles of saline solution.

“It was after midnight when we got to Mombasa hospital where the doctors and surgeons did their best to stitch and operate for almost two hours.

“I am lucky to have the use of my fingers and hand, but the arm is quite stiff.

“I have lost quite a bit of muscle and tissue, but the tendons are still there and the surgeons have repaired the damaged artery and veins.”

An experienced sea diver Grenville, whose wife is also a diving instructor, believes he was ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.

“Fishermen in the area suggest that I was attacked by either a large tiger shark or a mako shark.”

Some sharks off Pemba can be upto three metres in length and weigh several hundreds kilos.

“Personally I don’t believe the shark wanted to kill me.

“It attacked out of curiosity.

“When it had taken the first bite it could have come back and finished the job ... but it didn’t.

“It was the middle of the afternoon which is prime feeding time off the ‘Fundu Gap’ where all the kingfish and tunny gather to feed along the drop-off.

“There is always lots of fresh feed fish and pieces of food waiting to be picked up.

“I think this shark just made a mistake and then took off.”

Grenville Dunbar admitted he was very lucky in being so close to Kenya at the time of the shark attack.

“I really want to thank my wife and friends and everyone in Kenya who helped in the rescue and provided such excellent medical treatment.

“They all saved my life.”

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