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Monday 20 November 2017

Irish expat has lucky escape in Perth shark attack

Lloyd Gorman

DUBLINER Martin Kane is Australia's latest and luckiest shark-attack victim, and just two days after his dramatic encounter with a great white he was back in the water.

Mr Kane, 61, originally from Phibsborough, went into the water early last Wednesday morning for what would become the most memorable surfski paddle of his life.

"A school of dolphins came along, right in front of us," he said. "The other guys slowed down to have a look. I kept going and I was about 50 metres ahead of the pack. It was a beautiful morning and I turned my head to the left to have a look at the sunrise.

"I normally say a prayer, and this morning was like a spiritual experience. Then I got a cold feeling and I picked up the pace and started paddling again, and almost as soon as I did there was an almighty crash. All I could see was a great big grey shape and I was trying to think to myself what could have hit me? Those seconds where I picked up the pace probably saved my life," he said.

Mr Kane -- who moved to Perth in 1966 with his brother-in-law and fellow Dubliner Jack Cullen -- compared the moment of impact as the great white struck the surfski craft to being in a car crash.

"When the shark came out of the water its jaws went around the end of the ski and bit down, which caused it to explode, because the ski is a sealed container. I've seen and heard car crashes and that is exactly what it is like."

"I came up out of the water and the water was a mess, its head and tail were thrashing around and the ski was going up in the air and around. . . I swam away and as I did, my mate came up to me and said 'Hop up onboard Marty, we'll get you to the beach'.

"Trying to get myself across my mate's ski -- which is very thin and long and unsteady -- wasn't easy, I almost toppled him. It was almost impossible.

"The shark was still chomping on the ski when we hit the beach but I would not have been able to swim fast enough to get away," he added.

Mr Kane is vice-president of Royal Life Saving Western Australia, one of the main organisations in Australia running water safety, swimming, survival and lifeguard courses.

"Surf Life Saving is there to prevent loss of life and injury in the community, particularly in aquatic environments," said Mr Kane, who dived back into the same waters just two days later.

"If you were in a car accident, what would you do? never get into a car again? Of course not," he added.

He reckons the ski's cables also helped him escape. "The cable from the pedals to the rudders on my new ski are made from stainless steel and there is a lot of tension in those wires. I think that when the shark bit down the wires got caught in his teeth and he couldn't shake it off. Those metal cables gave us the couple of minutes we needed to get back to shore."

The experience has not dented Mr Kane's enthusiasm for getting wet, but it has changed the way he looks at life. "I've got my wife Maria, five children, two grandchildren and two more on the way, so I've a lot to live for. So I've got a new birth date, my rebirth, June 20. I tell you, its reset all the clocks."

Sunday Independent

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