“I thought it was my last day. I thought I was going to lose my leg or lose my life,” says the Cairns fisherman after surviving his horrific bull shark attack.
Phillip Wayne Brown is, by his own account, incredibly lucky to be alive. The 24-year-old is an experienced Yarrabah spearfisherman and angler. But nothing could’ve prepared him for the bull shark that spotted him during his last dive.
Speaking to local reporters from his hospital bed, Brown recounts the horrific attack in startling detail. Be warned. There’s graphic content ahead.
The attacking bull shark was “three meters long, easily,” Brown says, equivalent to a good 10-feet-long. Its size allowed him to spot it immediately, but there was little time to react.
Brown was exploring a cave some three meters below the surface at Rocky Island, a full 300 meters away off Yarrabah’s shores. Typically, an attack comes when a spearfisher is carrying harvested fish. Sharks can smell blood from miles away. But brown had no harvests. It was just him.
‘I Knew What Was Going to Happen; He’s a Bull Shark, He’s Going to Have a Go At Me’
“When I popped my head back up, there was the bull shark,” he begins of the encounter for local TropicNow. “We sort of both got a fright from each other but I was still a long way from the rocks, so I tried to swim a bit faster to the rock.
“I knew what was going to happen; he’s a bull shark, he’s going to have a go at me.”
Unfortunately, he was right. “I just felt a big, numb jerk,” Brown continues. “It twisted, popped my knee out the socket… If I didn’t have the dislocated knee, I think he probably would have ripped it off.”
Brown is referencing a previous knee dislocation, which he believes may have strangely saved his life. He would survive with a gaping gash covering the length of his calf. The bull shark would also turn the bottom half of his leg a full 180 degrees around.
But it was his own ferocity that saved his life. “I stabbed him on top of the head with the spear gun and he took off but he kept circling around because I was losing a lot of blood,” Brown explains. “He came back two or three times trying to have a go but I was in ankle deep water.”
Brown’s ‘Two Mates and Two Nephews’ Came to his Rescue
Thankfully, Brown was not fishing alone, which is never advisable in shark-bearing waters. His two mates and two nephews were present and able to come to his rescue, pulling him from the water to wrap a shirt around his profusely bleeding leg. Their anchor rope served as the tourniquet for his thigh.
“Thank god I had them with me,” Brown offers tearfully. “I thought it was my last day. I thought I was going to lose my leg or lose my life.”
While being rushed to his first hospital, one of Brown’s “best mates” said “See I told you to stay home.” He would eventually have to be airlifted to a unit in Cairns to save his life. He’s currently awaiting further surgery to repair and keep his leg.
As for his spearfishing future, Brown says, “I will be going back diving but I won’t be diving at home.”