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Sydney beaches reopen as shark attack victim identified as ‘keen diver’

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Beaches in Sydney’s east will re-open today after local British man and “keen diver” Simon Nellist was killed by a shark late on Wednesday afternoon.

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The 35-year-old Wolli Creek man died from catastrophic injuries after being attacked by what witnesses say was a four-and-a-half metre great white shark at Little Bay on Wednesday.

Randwick City Council said the area’s beaches would open after a 24-hour closure that took in Little Bay, Malabar, Maroubra, Coogee, Clovelly and La Perouse.

The fatal shark attack was the first in Sydney in nearly 60 years.

British newspaper The Sun said Mr Nellist was an ex-RAF serviceman who was preparing to marry his girlfriend Jessie Ho.

“Him and Jessie were due to get married last year but that got put off because of COVID,” The Sun cited a close friend as saying.

“It’s just horrendous. We spent most of yesterday just hoping and praying it wasn’t him. It’s still incredibly raw.”

Nellist reportedly arrived in Australia about six years ago after his RAF service ended.

The Queens Hotel in Penzance, Cornwell, where Nellist once worked said staff were shocked and saddened by the news and sent their prayers to his family and girlfriend.

“Simon was a wonderful man who worked here for several years before moving to Australia — he was a valued member of staff and was always popular with guests and fellow team members,” it said in a Facebook post.

Beaches between Bondi and Cronulla were immediately shut in the wake of his death as authorities watched for sharks in the area, using drones and jetski patrols.

On Thursday night, NSW Police, Randwick City Council lifeguards and the Department of Primary Industries cleared all 13 beaches to re-open on Friday after no more sharks were seen.

“Our entire community is thinking of the family and friends of the victim today,” Randwick mayor Dylan Parker said in a council statement.

“This is a shocking tragedy that our area will feel for a long time.”

Lifeguards surveyed beaches on jet skis and used drones to check for shark sightings along the coast.

Department of Primary Industries have installed six SMART drumlines between Little Bay and Malabar as part of a shark incident response plan, council said.

SMART drumlines are new technology that allow target sharks to be intercepted beyond the surf break.

University of Sydney academic Chris Pepin-Neff, who focuses on policy responses to shark attacks, said “this was not a typical event”.

Dr Pepin-Neff supported the authorities’ decision to close nearby beaches.

“While killing individual sharks does not reduce the risk from shark bites, public education to stay out of the water when sharks are close to shore makes a difference,” he said.

A local ocean swim planned for Sunday was cancelled “out of respect for the swimmer and his family”.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet labelled the fatal attack a “horrific tragedy”, saying the government extended its sympathies to the family of the man.

“It’s a reminder to us all of the fragility of life,” the Premier said.

This article was first published in The New Daily. Read the original article here.

-with AAP

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