‘This animal, it was just savage. It was like a wild dog,’ Chris Williams tells New Idea. ‘The one Mick Fanning had, it just knocked him off his board. In comparison that was a puppy attack. This thing was going to eat my daughter and going to eat the kayak and anything else that was in its way.’
The South Australian family were enjoying a day out on the water off the coast near Normanville when Sarah, 15, was knocked off her kayak and flung into the air by the giant great white shark.
Her father Chris - who was 30m away in a boat with some of his other children - turned around after hearing a huge bang and was confronted by a sight no parent ever wants to witness.
‘I turned round and the shark was going absolutely mental. I’ve never seen anything as ferocious, as aggressive before,’ he tells New Idea.
‘I couldn’t see my daughter, it was just all white water everywhere. Then her head pops up out the water and she climbs back onto the kayak and she was screaming and looking, screaming in a way that you don’t ever want to hear. We quickly started the boat, turned around, and pulled her out. As my son was pulling her into the boat, he actually dragged her across the back of the shark. That’s how close it all was.
‘It was horrific. I’m a fisherman, I do a lot of fishing, I chase tuna and snapper and I’ve never seen a shark like this. It was just absolutely savage.’
Chris believes if Sarah - who escaped with scratches and bruising - wasn’t such a competent kayaker, the outcome would have been very different.
‘We have a 10-acre lake in front of our house, the kids have been on kayaks in this very deep lake so they are very accustomed to how they get on a kayak from deep water.
‘A child who wouldn’t have been able to get back on a kayak would’ve been dangling on the side. But Sarah knew how to get on because she’s got on and jumped off a million times in the lake.
‘It was nothing short of a miracle that the shark then decided to latch on to the end of the kayak rather than her and in that split time we were able to get to her. If he had let go and gone in for another bite, the next bite was Sarah.
‘I’m not even quite sure if she understands the enormity of what nearly happened yesterday.
‘I’m pretty emotional,’ says Chris. ‘The worse possible nightmare that you could ever imagine, the fear of being eaten by a shark would be right up there in the top one or two for anyone. And to actually witness this nearly happening to your youngest daughter, it just rips your heart out.’