Great white shark kills championship bodyboarder; did chumming attract beasts?
A great white shark like this one killed bodyboarder David Lilienfeld.
April 20th, 2012
11:42 AM ET

Great white shark kills championship bodyboarder; did chumming attract beasts?

South African championship bodyboarder David Lilienfeld, 20, was killed by a great white shark Thursday in Kogel Bay near Cape Town as he caught waves with his brother, according to local news reports.

A shark estimated to be between 13 and 16 feet long bit off Lilienfeld's right leg, the reports said.

Witnesses saw the attack from the rocks overlooking the bay, which is part of the larger False Bay.

One of them was Lucille Bester, who said she saw the shark about 20 to 30 yards from Lilienfeld and others in the water but was too far away to catch their attention, according to a report from the Cape Argus on the website Independent Online.

"The next thing we saw the shark come from under one of the guys and grab him. The shark shook him and then let him go. The surfer was screaming – it was terrible!" Bester is quoted as saying.

“Then it took him again. And that was it. It took him under. The first time it took him, there wasn’t any blood. But the second time there was," Bester told the Cape Argus.

Fellow surfer Mat Marais saw the attack from the beach, according to the report.

"I saw this big dorsal fin, and after that I saw him getting attacked. He was off his board and in the water. Then the shark turned around and attacked him again. Just before it attacked him, he tried to put his board between him and the shark. He was pushing the shark’s head with his board.

“But within two seconds, the water turned from turquoise to red," the Cape Argus quoted Marais as saying.

Lilienfeld's brother, Gustav, got his body to shore, according to a report in the Cape Times.

The bodyboarder's father, Dirk Lilienfeld, gave police a statement for the gathered media, according to the Cape Times.

"This was his life, and he died doing what he loved,” police said the father told them.

Lilienfeld placed third in the South African Bodyboarding Association’s 2011 pro rankings and competed for South Africa in November's world games.

“It’s a humongous loss to South African Bodyboarding. He was a well mannered boy and did his best for South African Bodyboarding," the vice chairman of the group, Pat Harris, told local Eyewitness News.

After the attack, witnesses reported that the shark that killed Lilienfeld was one of six spotted in the area, Craig Lambinon, a spokesman for the National Sea Rescue Institute, told the Cape Times.

Some pointed a finger at researchers and documentary filmmakers who were working in the area earlier in the week and using chum to attract sharks to their cameras, using Facebook and Twitter to protest.

"Why does a kid have to die before we start talking about the negative effects of chumming the coastline?? Pisses me off!!" wrote Karen Zoid under the hashtag "sharkattack" on Twitter.

"Chumming must stop and the exploitation of our wildlife in Africa must stop this is all about greed and money," according to a Facebook posting under the name Monica Rogers.

Documentary maker Chris Fischer defended the filming on the Facebook page for the show "Shark Men," seen on the National Geographic Channel, saying the crew had left the area three days earlier.

"During our 24 hrs of work (Sun afternoon to Monday afternoon) there we chummed 24kg (53 pounds) of pilchards (sardines). Less than the daily allotment for each of three cage diving boats working daily," the post said. "We have been east of Cape Agulhas (160km east of Seal Island) since Monday evening until we arrived in Walker Bay(80km East of Seal Island) this morning."

"We are terribly sorry again for the loss of this family and at this time our thoughts and prayers are with them," it read.

Fischer's group had a government permit for the chumming and filming, but it was revoked after Thursday's attack, according to the local news reports.

In a news release dated April 11, researcher and great white photographer Dirk Schmidt warned that chumming could bring sharks to the area and keep them there.

"A sharp increase in the number of White Sharks may be noted during and after the filming has been completed, as these sharks, initially attracted by volumes of chum to the Seal Island area, find their way around the bay.  The dispersal of a massive chum slick, given on-shore winds, may further increase the number of inshore sharks which cruise the chum slick in search of food," Schmidt wrote.

CapeTimes columnist Tony Weaver, a surfer and diver in the waters where the shark attacked, on Friday called for an end to chumming.
"Could there indeed be a link between chumming and shark attacks? Does chumming bring sharks closer inshore? Does it make sharks go in search of easier prey?" Weaver wrote.

"Until we have a scientific answer, chumming in False Bay must be banned," he wrote.

National Geographic issued a statement saying Fischer's current work was not part of any project for the network.

“We have not renewed the series, have no plans to at the moment, and are not filming new episodes at this time. Therefore, the filming mentioned is not for National Geographic Channel, or future episodes of Shark Men,” the network said, according to a report on the South African website ITweb.

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Filed under: Animals • Sharks • Sports
soundoff (482 Responses)
  1. Boo

    At least the kid died doing what he loves. How many of us will be that lucky? It's called survival of the fittest and the shark won.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Nabit

      He didn't die doing what he loved. He died while getting torn to pieces by a shark while drowning in his own blood and guts.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • TAK

      I'd rather die doing what I dislike at 100 than doing what I love at 20.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. Oscar Pitchfork

    When there is truly NOTHING to say, some idiot will always say "At least he died doing what he loved...", what? Screaming in agony and the primal terror of being food for a wild animal? Get aclue...

    April 20, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • PEDO BEAR

      "A shark estimated to be between 13 feet and 16 feet long bit off Lilienfeld's right leg, the reports said."

      I wonder if David tried to fend off the shark by beating the shark with his severed leg as a last ditch effort.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. blam

    Stop feeding the trollshark. Old people and the internet – geeze.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. bella

    Did he not watch shark week on discovery this past year...they did a whole shoot on sharks in south Africa...just saying...

    April 20, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lars Babaganoosh

    He should have jumped the shark but then his career would have been in the tank anyways.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. Quint

    Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • PEDO BEAR

      Quint,
      I think you're gonna need a bigger boat. 😉

      April 20, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Graced

      Let's face it, it had to be done 😉 Sorry for the surfer's family (and obviously for him dying that horribly). I kinda look at this like race car drivers who die after crashing headlong into a wall – your hobbies are dangerous, and I can't be surprised when the inevitable happens.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. C.D.

    The further away, (degrees of separation) people are from an experience, the safer they feel.

    Stupid, insensitive statements, are really saying, I'm feeling safe enough to say, whatever has come to my mind.

    Those unwilling to use imagination to experience the feelings of others, have no choice but to be stupid and insensitive.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • PEDO BEAR

      You're logic is flawed. I am willing to use my imagination: I can imagine that it hurt like a mofo before he passed out from loss of blood. Do I feel safe? Yes, because I am not "Darwin" enough to go surfing/swimming in waters that I know are a coastal hunting ground for sharks.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. kayaker247

    you go in the water? board goes in the water? sharks in the water, our shark!

    April 20, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Em Curry

      On Thursday morning, Chief, he bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. Graced

    To clarify my previous statement – it was supposed to be @Quint, but doesn't seem to have posted underneath his "Jaws" quote.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. phyllis

    This is very sad, but if you go into waters, where big sharks are, then you should realize what might happen.....

    It is their home, and they rule........I am very sad for his family......so young to die that way.......

    I do like to go into the ocean, and do when I can, but I stay close to shore.........

    I was thinking, they had watcher, at South Africa beaches, to watch for great whites...........

    to warn people out of water........peace out.......

    April 20, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • steven S

      staying near shore is no safer. I recall surfing/bellyboarding/bodysurfing in Hawaii many years back when I was in highschool, and it wasn't uncommon to see a shark swimming just 15 – 20 feet off the shoreline.

      ...and then there was always the jerk on shore yelling shark while those of us out in the water raced in on whatever wave we could catch, only to be coming to the shark. Fortunately, I never witnessed an attack, but ...just sayin.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. Melodykari78

    Exactly why I don't swim in the ocean. I don't care of the chances or likelihood of it happening, it is still a risk I am NOT willing to take.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. shelbydawkins

    How someone could get in the water off the coast of South Afrioca is beyond me. I did read that the white sharks don't like to eat humans because they are a bit too boney for their taste. Maybe not.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • crabman

      NICE–you should be careful stepin of the curb-–just sayn

      April 20, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Akira

      Great Whites use their teeth to identify whether something is soft enough too be worth eating. Unfortunately, a single bite from these sharks can maim or even kill a human.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • amsjll

      I mostly agree. While deadly shark attacks are very rare and I have no problem going into the ocean, I am aware of the risks. I would not swim out deep in South African waters. I've watched enough Shark Week in my life to know thats not a good idea.
      On the other hand, I take a much bigger risk when I get in my car and drive anywhere. About a million people die every year, worldwide, in car accidents. But I have a life to live. So did he, and he loved this aspect of his life. I see both sides to this argument.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • amsjll

      I mostly agree. While deadly shark attacks are very rare and I have no problem going into the ocean, I am aware of the risks. I would not swim out deep in South African waters. I've watched enough Shark Week in my life to know thats not a good idea. On the other hand, I take a much bigger risk when I get in my car and drive anywhere. About a million people die every year, worldwide, in car accidents. But I have a life to live. So did he, and he loved this aspect of his life. I see both sides to this argument.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  13. LeahC26

    You people leave the most insensitive out of line comments whenever they post these sad stories on here. At the end of the day, when you go into the ocean, you are in THEIR territory. Your taking that risk. No matter what experts try to say that shark attacks are very rare and that you have a better chance of getting hit by lightening or hearing stories of victims surviving or people swimming with sharks...blah blah blah. Sharks are unpredictable. You can't predict an attack but know you could be once you go into the ocean.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • rosierocket

      Seriously...it repulses me to read comments at the bottom of any story...people are so damn hateful..

      April 20, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Satch

      Well saiod Leah.

      Wikipedia: An average of more than 38 people die annually from lightning strikes in U.S. coastal states, while less than 1 person per year is killed by a shark.

      In comparison, 100 million sharks are killed every year by humans.[16][17][18]

      Even considering only people who go to beaches, a person's chance of getting attacked by a shark in the US is 1 in 11.5 million, and a person's chance of getting KILLED by a shark is less than 1 in 264.1 million.[19][20]

      In the United States, the annual number of people who drown is 3,306, whereas the annual number of shark fatalities is 1.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. alientech

    Nothing you love doing is worth dying at 20.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • bronxgal

      so true.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • caw

      If you can't do what you love, then what's the purpose of life?

      April 20, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • crabman

      i'm sure he didn't wake up and decide to get in front of a shark

      April 20, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • dennis

      Yes for you that is true. You have never found anything but yourself worth living for.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  15. Travis Martinson

    Steve was delicious! Almost because he ate a Snickers frozen treat!!!!! THAT CONMERCIAL comes to mind!

    April 20, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Max in NY

      come on dude...too soon

      April 20, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • PEDO BEAR

      Its never too soon for a frozen Snickers!

      April 20, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
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