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Shark victim known to rescuers

19:25 Wed Feb 27 2013

A shark attack off the popular Muriwai Beach on Auckland's west coast has claimed the life of a man known to the surf lifesavers trying to rescue him.

The man, aged in his 40s, was swimming 200m offshore north from Maori Bay to Muriwai at about 1.30pm when he was attacked by a large shark.

He was dead by the time lifeguards and police, one of whom was firing shots at the shark, reached him.

Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service chairman Tim Jago said the man was well known to lifeguards who tried to save him, describing him as "a good water man".

He told media the lifeguards who went in inflatable boats to try to rescue him had been traumatised and were being offered support and counselling.

The shark that attacked the man was reportedly up to 4m long and believed to be a great white. Another shark was also seen by rescuers.

"They're not a common occurrence," Mr Jago told Radio New Zealand. "We know they're there, we sometimes see smaller ones, but to see something this size, to see two of them at this beach pretty close in is pretty unprecedented."

Inspector Shawn Rutene of Auckland police said it was unclear whether the armed officer shot the shark, but said it had rolled off and disappeared.

He said the victim's family "are very upset and very distraught".

Fisherman Pio Mosie told Fairfax he saw the man out swimming before the attack.

"All of a sudden...we saw the shark fin and next minute, boom, attack him then blood everywhere on the water," he said.

"He was still alive, he put his head up, we called him to swim over the rock to where we were.

"He raised his hand up, and then while he was raising his hand up we saw another attack pull him in the water."

Mr Jago said all west Auckland beaches, including Muriwai, Karekare, Bethells Beach and Piha, have been closed as attempts are made to see if there are still sharks in the area.

Shark deaths are uncommon in New Zealand, with Wednesday's death the first confirmed shark attack fatality since 1976.