Teacher, 46, mauled to death by shark was 'dragged underwater for 15 mins' as surfboard with bitemarks found in water | The Sun
SEARCH teams are hunting for the body of a beloved teacher who was ferociously savaged by a shark while surfing Down Under.
Simon Baccanello, 46, was reportedly dragged underwater for over 15 minutes by the beast at Walkers Rock on South Australia's west coast.
He disappeared on Saturday morning after horror struck as he rode the waves at the popular beach.
The local teacher, who began working at Elliston Area School in January, is said to have been ambushed while 50 metres offshore.
Simon is said to have been surfing at around 10am when he was suddenly mauled by a shark in front of horrified onlookers.
Around 16 people, including a 13-year-old boy, were in the water and watched the attack unfold just metres away from them.
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Bystanders told how Simon bravely warned others to swim back to shore as he battled against the beast.
Eyewitness Jaidan Millar, 22, said the shark pounced on the teacher several times as he desperately tried to fight it off.
He told the Adelaide Advertiser: "I saw his board tombstoning, which means he’s underwater and his board’s getting dragged under, trying to fight his way back up to the surface.
"He was gone. (We) saw the shark just thrashing around out the back.
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"The shark's obviously let go and come back and got him for a third time. We all looked at each other like, what do we do?
"I yelled out, ‘Call an ambulance,’ but I’m sure the bloke on the beach had already been on the phone trying to get a hold of the ambulance.
"It was such a confronting incident. There were 15 or 20 people out there today. It could have been anyone."
It is feared Simon, who taught maths, science and PE, succumbed to his life-threatening injuries after being dragged underwater by the shark.
Officials launched extensive searches of the area over the weekend and chillingly found a surfboard with a huge chunk out of it.
"That was picked up pretty quickly … it had just one bite in the middle," Streaky Bay SES unit manager Trevlyn Smith told 7News.
A piece of wetsuit material and small pieces of polystyrene that were discovered are now set to be forensically examined.
Rescue crews resumed the hunt for Simon on Monday morning, in the area that locals have described as "great white shark territory."
Superintendent Paul Bahr, from SA Police's Eyre and Western Local Service Area, said they are hoping to find further debris that will help them piece together what happened.
He told ABC: "We'll be doing the beaches around Walkers Rock and we'll be checking for any signs that might point to what occurred.
"We are in the process of putting together a report which will go to the coroner."
He said the State Emergency Service, Country Fire Service, local police and volunteers were aiding the frantic search for Simon's body.
Officials are concentrating on beach areas in hopes that "anything in the water will wash to shore rather than out to sea."
The teacher's family released a short statement on Sunday thanking the community for their condolences.
They said they are "grateful for the support" and "would appreciate their privacy as they process this tragic loss."
The 46-year-old had only moved to the nearby town of Elliston to teach in January, but quickly became an admired member of the community.
The principal of Elliston Area School, Chad Fleming, told 7News: "I’ve known this guy for five months and I feel like we’ve been mates for 10 years.
"We’re all a bit numb at the minute. He was just an absolute gem of a bloke, an absolutely dedicated teacher."
Tributes from locals and pals have flooded social media in wake of the shocking incident, who described him as "kind, caring and inspiring".
One said: "RIP my brother, taken way too soon and one of the nicest guys I've ever met."
Another added: "He's just been a good teacher for the kids. In a small town like this, everyone gets affected by it."
A third wrote: "He was one of a kind and a heart of gold."
South Australia Police confirmed the search was still underway, with members of the community and the SES involved.
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Elliston is located about 650km from Adelaide which tourists often flock to for its stunning beaches.
The area is well-known for the high number of shark attacks off the coast.
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