Search for surfer savaged by monster shark called off after shredded wetsuit found floating in sea as family pay tribute

POLICE have called off the search for a father of two who went missing off the coast of Australia after he was attacked by a shark.   

Andrew Sharpe was surfing with friends at Kelp Beds in Wylie Bay when he was suddenly "flung" from his board on Friday.

Shocked witnesses say he was then savaged on the leg by a four-metre "monster" shark.

When his friends tried to save him they say the shark came back and dragged him under the waves.

His surfboard floated back to shore hours later covered with bite marks and two pieces of a shredded wetsuit were found in the same area on Saturday.

The 52 year old- known as Sharpey – has been described as a  "loving father, life partner and brother" by his devastated family.

Police confessed on Saturday night they had lost hope of finding him alive, and by the next day decided to officially call off the search.

"He would do anything for anyone and was a great and loyal mate to his friends and people he met," his family said in a statement.

"He was an experienced surfer of 40 years and he loved the ocean immensely.

"He knew the risks and we knew the risks as well. They had been discussed often. He will be greatly missed by us all."

The family also thanked to those that had joined the search for the surfer over the weekend.

"It's never easy to sit down with a family and tell them you're suspending the search," said WA Police Senior Sergeant Justin Tarasinski .

"What I will say is that Mr Sharpe's family have been absolutely fantastic in the way they're handling that side of things and it was actually with their blessing and almost their suggestion."

The missing man's friends now fear the worst.

"We know the deal when we go surfing, it is what it is, but you hope it never happens to you or anyone that you know," pal Scott Docherty told 9News.

Chairman of the Esperance Ocean Safety and Support Group, Mitchell Capelli, said he was left shaking after hearing of the attack on Mr Sharpe.

We're devastated…he was a local legend," Mr Capelli told The West Australian. 

He called for stronger measures to be implemented to protect the community against killer sharks.   

"We're dealing with something that didn't just take one bite, it bumped him, bit him and took him down. It shouldn't be in the ocean anymore," he said. 

Police said eight surfers had been in the water at the time of the brutal attack but were unable to bring the victim to the shore.

Sergeant Taranski said earlier: “The surfboard washed up nearby to where the attack occurred and with obvious signs of shark attack.

“The chances of survival are obviously pretty slim considering some of the accounts that have been provided to us.”

He added: “One of the surfers tried to get him from the water but was unable to do so.”

Horrified swimmers told of the moment they saw the gigantic beast circling in the water off Kelp Beds. 

Jess Gardiner, who was in the water just a kilometre away at the time of the attack, told 9 News: “My partner had seen what he thought was to be a shark behind me, about 50 to 100m away from me.

“He said it was anywhere between a two to three metre shark … panic set in. There was a fair few families and kids throughout the bay.”

Kelp Beds is a popular destination for surfers but has seen shark attacks in the past. 

In April 2017, Laeticia Brouwer, 17, was fatally bitten on the leg while out surfing with her dad in Kelp Beds.  

Surfer Sean Pollard was also mauled to death at the same spot in 2014 and lost his right hand and left arm. 

It comes as pro-surfer Matt Wilkinson had a close encounter with a great white shark off Ballina on the east coast on Wednesday.

Drone footage shows the surfer dodging the shark attack by just inches, as the 8ft beast lunges at his feet in the water.

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