Whitsundays shark attack victim Justine Barwick
Whitsundays shark attack victim Justine Barwick

Shark attack victim identified as Tasmanian health worker

UPDATE 11AM: THE woman attacked by a shark in the Whitsundays yesterday has been identified as Tasmanian woman Justine Barwick. 

Family Based Care Tasmania, where the 46-year-old works, have released a statement confirming Mrs Barwick was on holidays with her family when the awful incident occurred. 

Family Based Care CEO Douglass Doherty said Mrs Barwick is an avid snorkeler and was on an annual trip to the Whitsundays. 

"I am able to confirm that our Operations Manager Justine Barwick, has been hospitalised as a result of a shark attack that took place at approximately 5pm yesterday in the Whitsunday Passage," Mr Doherty said. 

"Justine was on leave with her husband and friends enjoying time on their family yacht as part of an annual trip to the Whitsundays.  She is an avid snorkeler and enjoys these times away with family and friends.

"At this time Justine is in a critical but stable condition.  Justine is a fighter - a fit resilient woman who is an outstanding leader in the aged and disability care sectors.  These intrinsic attributes will serve her well in her recovery."


RACQ CQ Rescue aircrew Ben McCauley and pilot Kevin Berry, who were part of the four-men helicopter crew that rescued the 46-year-old woman.
RACQ CQ Rescue aircrew Ben McCauley and pilot Kevin Berry, who were part of the four-men helicopter crew that rescued the 46-year-old woman. Madura McCormack


INITIAL: A TRIFECTA of lucky breaks has saved the life of a Tasmanian tourist mauled by a shark in the Whitsundays.

The 46-year-old woman had a "huge chunk" of her right leg bitten off by a shark about 5pm on Wednesday, at Cid Harbour off Whitsunday Island.

It has been revealed a perfect mix of luck and emergency services coordination could have well saved the woman's life.

It is understood the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter had been in the vicinity of the incident, tasked to a beacon search in Proserpine, when the four-men crew received the call, arriving on scene in 15 minutes.

As they hovered overhead, it drew the attention of an off-duty emergency doctor who was on a nearby yacht.

The doctor rushed to the scene as the woman was pulled onto 50-foot yacht Topaz, understood to be out of Sydney.

"There was a local emergency doctor from Mackay Base Hospital on another vessel and he ventured over when he saw us doing a few orbits around," RACQ CQ Rescue air crewman Ben McCauley said.

"He went over and helped out with the original first aid and did a lot of assessment for us so we could pretty much just pick her up and go from there.

"The original first aid was actually really well done, we actually didn't have to do anything with the leg. It was torniqueted up, bandaged really well and blood loss had stopped, they did really well."



Restricted by the lack of an open deck and the yacht's high mast, the RACQ CQ Rescue crew was forced to winch down into a dingy that had been repositioned 100 metres from the yacht.

The woman was then stabilised by a Queensland Ambulance Service critical care paramedic that had been on board the chopper.

"We didn't get a real good look at the leg itself, we didn't unpack it because there was no bleeding but we were told there was arterial bleeding, a lot of blood loss," Mr McCauley said.

"A big chunk of the leg taken, a few small puncture wounds on her calf muscle but apart from that, that was about it.

"The patient was sort of in and out of consciousness, we gave her some pain relief, put her to sleep and woke her up again so she didn't really have too much to say."



With their fuel tank just ten minutes short of what was needed to reach Mackay, the RACQ CQ Rescue diverted to Prosperine to refuel.

In a show of perfect synchronisation, the helicopter landed as on ground paramedics arrived with bags of blood and more pain relief.

RACQ CQ Rescue pilot Kevin Berry said the woman was lucky to be alive considering how much longer it would have taken for her to get help if they had not been in the area.

"We were about ten minutes short of fuel of coming back to Mackay, so we decided to go to Proserpine to refuel there," he said.

"It would have been ideal if we got have got some fuel at Hamilton Island, it's much closer, but unfortunately they didn't have any there.

"Those logistics were quite good that we all arrived at Proserpine at the same time and that gave the paramedic the chance to work on the patient a little bit more, stabilise her, put some monitoring on her and the fluids were needed straight away.

"So maybe fortuitous that landing at Proserpine got the fluids to her quicker than flying straight to Mackay. It all came together really.

"Certainly quick response, and I guess if we weren't in the area the emergency doctor wouldn't have known there was an issue, so very fortuitous that time, people and resources were there when we needed them."

The woman remains at Mackay Base Hospital in a critical condition.

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