Residents in Jeffrey’s Bay were stunned at the recent news of the fatal attack on local man, Burgert van der Westhuizen, by an enormous Great White Shark.
Burgert van der Westhuizen is said to have been a keen long-distance swimmer and when he set out on his regular swim route along the backline to the lower Point area in J-Bay, his daily ritual was to end in horror.
Eyewitnesses told how they were shocked by the attack, initially assuming there were two sharks involved – such was the size of the Great White that claimed the life of the 74-year-old. Local kayaker, Terry Olivier was paddling to shore when eyewitnesses alerted him of the attack and yelled for him to paddle out to where the shark was perceived to be feeding on its victim. In an account to Die Burger, Olivier told how he paddled out towards the grisly scene and saw a massive White Shark circling the torso of the victim, biting it intermittently. Olivier said the shark was longer than his kayak – which is five metres in length.
The kayaker tried to chase the massive fish off its victim using his paddle, but it became clear that the swimmer had died due to the severity of the injuries inflicted by the razor sharp teeth of the White. Olivier says the shark then turned its attention to him and, as it was evident that he could do no more for the victim in the water, he paddled away from the danger. Eyewitnesses report that as Olivier started paddling away, the colossal shark started following him and they shouted and waved for him to speed up and suffice to say he was fortunate to reach the shore safely.
Reportedly, the NSRI arrived shortly after and circled the victim on jetskis to keep the shark at bay while retrieving the body. Two weeks prior to the attack, Burgert is reported to have made a prophecy of sorts when he told a friend if a shark took him it may be the “best way to go, because it meant he would be in the sea, doing what he loved most”.
It remains an awful tragedy and one that has left an entire town in shock. It is said to be the first fatal shark attack in the region’s history and residents are understandably shaken. We would like to extend our warmest condolences to Burgert’s family and friends.
The attack in Jeffrey’s comes a little over a year after the terrible incident in Kogel Bay when David Lilienfeld was fatally attacked by a Great White while out bodyboarding with his brother. It isn’t clear what inspired the latest attack, but scientists have determined that sharks do not develop an affinity to human flesh or blood and that, in most cases, they are simply mistaking humans for prey such as seal or fish. Apparently they are merely curious in some instances and would take a bite out of something just to see what it was.