7 October 22
Now that’s not a headline you read every day! But it happened at a NSW beach on the South Coast, and apparently the shark was a whopping great white (estimated at 20 foot). The tiny plane with two occupants circled the lone surfer Bill Ballard three times to warn him he was being stalked, each time getting a bit lower until they slammed it into the surf. Amazingly, all three are fine!
Here’s how it was reported in the UK’s Daily Mail:
Incredible moment hero couple swoop down in their plane to warn surfer a giant six-metre shark is stalking him - only to crash into the sea before a miracle escape: 'It was the biggest I've ever seen'
A surfer who had a near-death experience when a giant shark loomed up beneath his board has thanked the 'guardian angels' who risked their lives to warn him of the danger, crashing their light aircraft into the sea as a result.
Bill Ballard was surfing at Wallagoot Beach on NSW's South Coast on September 25 when he spotted a gyroplane circling back above him and flying unusually low.
The pilot and his female passenger had seen Mr Ballard had paddled above a large school of salmon where the big shark - estimated at six metres long - was looking for a meal, along with 'about 30 to 40 dolphins'.
They were flying low to frighten the shark away and to tell the surfer of the threat.
'I'd called mum to get her to get some footage of me surfing with the dolphins but after I caught a wave I looked back at the beach and she was just staring up at something in the sky,' Mr Ballard told Daily Mail Australia.
'I looked up to see two people in an aircraft and they were almost hanging over the side screaming at me, "shark, shark!" and pointing at a big shadow in the water fairly close to me.'
He heeded the warning and immediately began paddling for the shore.
But the couple's brave warning had left the gyroplane too low and was unable to catch enough air to regain altitude.
The pilot tried to make it to the sand but the aircraft crashed into the shallow water near the shoreline.
Mr Ballard repaid the favour and rushed to their aid.
Amazingly the pair were able to walk away from the crash and, to the surfer's surprise, were more concerned about his narrow escape from the shark.
'She kept saying, "that shark was so close to you, so close, and it was the biggest one I've ever seen. It must have been around 20 feet long",' Mr Ballard said.
The pilot and the female passenger have spent years doing recreational flights along the south coast and always kept an eye out for dolphins and whales, they told Mr Ballard.
They spotted the pod of dolphins, then the shark, and when they noticed Mr Ballard paddling into the predator's path, they made the split-second decision to warn him.
The pilot said he was very familiar with what different sea animals look like from the air and definitely had not mistaken something else for a shark.
'There were so many dolphins around and all the shadows in the water were just more I assumed... there's an old tale sharks aren't around if dolphins are,' Mr Ballard said. 'The pilot and passenger were so courageous to put themselves in harm's way to save me from a potential shark attack.
'I am so thankful. They were like guardian angels coming to save me.'
Mr Ballard's mother Janine watched from the shore as the aircraft circled around three times, going lower each time to try and spook the shark so it would leave the area.
She said on the third lap, when the plane tried to lift back into the air, the aircraft struggled, changed course for the beach, and then just hit the water.
On a gyroplane, the rotor is not powered by an engine but requires an upward airflow onto the rotor blades to gain and maintain altitude.
Emergency services were called but once they confirmed no-one was injured, they decided not to send anyone to the location.
Janine and some other beachgoers assisted the couple with towels and food and drove them back into town.
Mr Ballard added that the dolphins began acting strangely when he was in the water and he believed they could have been trying to herd him towards the shore.
'I've surfed with dolphins a bit and never seen them act this way,' he said.
'They kept poking the heads out of the water right next to me and swimming back and forth like kelpies do when pushing sheep. I almost kicked one it came so close.'
Such situations, and even dolphins attacking sharks to protect their young, have been documented in the past.
In 2014, long distance swimmer Adam Walker was surrounded by a pod of 10 dolphins as he swam New Zealand's Cook Strait.
Mr Walker claimed they were protecting him from a great white shark he had spotted nearby.
And in 2004, New Zealand lifeguard Rob Howes and his 15-year-old daughter Niccy were circled by a pod of dolphins keeping a great white shark at bay until they were able to be picked up by a boat.
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