Tathra shark attack kills local swimmer

ROLLING COVERAGE: How the day unfolded

COMMUNITY IN SHOCK

TATHRA Surf Life Saving Club member Christine Armstrong, 63, was killed on Thursday in a shark attack at Tathra Beach.

She had been swimming with a group of friends between the beach and Tathra Wharf around 8.20am when the incident occurred.

Witnesses reported seeing a three-to-four-metre-long shark close to the surface in the area, but no sign of the shark or Ms Armstrong had been made before the search was called due to poor visibility late Thursday.

The search will resume at first light Friday.

Ms Armstrong’s family released this statement on Thursday afternoon.

“Chris was very loved by many people. 

“She has been swimming at Tathra Beach for 14 years and was an experienced and committed member of the surf club. 

“She was a senior surf club trainer for many years and swimming brought her much joy and many friends. 

“She will be sadly missed by all who loved her, especially by Rob, her husband of 44 years.”

Late Thursday, Bega Police Inspector Jason Edmunds said the search for her remains was ongoing.

Inspector Jason Edmunds from the Far South Coast Local Area Command speaks with media after a shark attack at Tathra Beach on Thursday. Inset: Christine Armstrong.

Inspector Jason Edmunds from the Far South Coast Local Area Command speaks with media after a shark attack at Tathra Beach on Thursday. Inset: Christine Armstrong.

Christine Armstrong, 63, was killed in an apparent shark attack on Thursday.

Christine Armstrong, 63, was killed in an apparent shark attack on Thursday.

With emergency services quickly on scene, Inspector Edmunds said every effort was being made to locate Ms Armstrong, but not long after conceded they were likely searching for her remains.

The Westpac Lifesaver 3 Helicopter assisted at the scene, while water police, surf lifesaving personnel and inflatable rescue boats from Tathra, Narooma, Pambula and Bermagui were all involved in the search effort, with ambulance paramedics on standby.

“We want to make sure we’ve covered all our possibilities, but we have grave concerns for her and it appears that in all likelihood she has been taken by a shark,” Inspector Edmunds said during the search.

“A shark was seen by numerous people in the water, including the swimmers this lady was with and some people who were up on the rocks.

“If it is the case that we need to find remains, we need to make every effort to do that.” 

Police and Surf Life Saving NSW are advising people to stay clear of the beach until further notice.

Ms Armstrong was a member of the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club and was swimming with a social group of members and non-members when she went missing.

She was one of a group of up to 20 who regularly complete the popular 600-metre swim from the Tathra surf club to Tathra Wharf. 

Witnesses on the wharf and in the water reported she was about halfway back to the beach when she went missing.

Around two hours after the first call came through, thoughts of a rescue had faded and the search turned to one of recovery.

“We’re into recovery mode now,” NSW Ambulance Far South Coast district supervisor Bob Whitney said about 10.30am.

“We got a call about 8.30 this morning and dispatched two crews and myself – one from Bega and one from Bermagui.

“The original call was allegedly a person had been taken by a shark.

“When we arrived it was confirmed by police a female had been taken by a shark.” 

Mr Whitney said paramedics would remain on scene for as long as necessary to assist police, surf lifesavers and anyone else who required assistance.

Club members involved in the incident are receiving counselling, and it is expected this unfolding tragedy will impact significantly on the small coastal community.

In a statement, Surf Life Saving NSW said the thoughts of all NSW surf lifesavers are with the victim's family and friends and also with the members still involved in the search effort.

It is believed Department of Primary Industries fisheries officers will also conduct an investigation into the shark attack at Tathra.

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