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. david mann

    A person dies in a painful and terrifying way and you people make jokes about it? You sound like a bunch of frat-rats after a keg party. What a bunch of insensitive a**holes. If there is such a thing as Karma you have a load of bad s**t coming down on your head.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. christine

    Very sad. Condolences to the young man's family and friends. I can't imagine the mental scars this will leave on the people who witnessed it.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. reply

    Those saying they don't understand the whole "dieing doing what they loved thing" don't understand doing something you love and knowing there is a risk. I feel sorry for those that will probably die at their keyboard with a 2 liter of Mountain Dew beside them, commenting on a CNN story and thinking they are making a difference in the world but I will be sure to say, 'they died doing what they loved."

    April 20, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • IndyMike

      I agree with you. America has become a risk-averse nation. Parents in particluar want their kids to grow up in a risk-free world. Sorry, that eorld does not exist. Dying doing what you love is not even close to the worst thing that could happen. Dying without ever even trying to make the world a better place is far worse.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    Hopefully he was a liberal.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • BOB

      No hopefully invoked here; you definitely aren't human.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • crabman

      S T F U---M @ R O N

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

      No, South Africa is quite the racist country. Based on your comment I bet you'd like it

      April 20, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bayousara

    With all the people standing on the beach watching this horrible scenario, it would seem to me that surfers could wear some kind of gadget (small, high tech, waterproof) that watchers could warn them with from the shore of a shark in the water. That shark will probably be back in that area again.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Terri

      That sounds like a great idea to me!! It would certainly help to save lives.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. Devan

    Darwinism at work?? Really?? People are supposed to live in fear their entire lives instead of doing what they enjoy? Same thing as flying, same thing as driving after being in an accident. Let's all live in fear of the unknown and hope and pray we can be as safe as possible in our little hole at the back of the closet. Screw that!!! You can step off of a curb and some idiot may hit you. You can go swimming in a pool, cramp and drown. You can walk into your house that is supposed to be safe, and have someone that broke in shoot you. You can go out to Destin or Pensacola Beach, FL and step on stingray or as it has happened, get bitten by a shark (yes, there are sharks in the gulf, NOT just in South Africa). Freak accidents happen all of the time, not because someone was tempting fate, or Darwin's theory was waiting to take them out. It's because they chose not to live in fear and actually LIVE. My guess at all of the insensitive comments is that those are the people who are afraid of life and are afraid of the unknown and they are very sad, stressed people indeed. Those are the ones who can't find a job, can't keep a relationship, and can't keep real friends because of their fear.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • G

      @Devan and David;
      Well said indeed guys....if everyone that post these negative comments on such a tragedy had half of a life that this surfer did they would not know what to do with themselves. If you cannot say anything positive or sincere to what happened than keep your Fr@kin useless mouths shut and go back to watch your kiddie cartoons.
      Just another reason why I hate some human life forms.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. vince

    while tragic, consider this – sharks kill an average of 5 people per year. We kill approx 38 million sharks per year (finning for shark soup). Source National Geographic. Look it up if you don't believe me.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. Fields

    I'm tired of people being killed by sharks. Can't we launch some kind of world-wide campaign to end this menace forever?

    April 20, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ron in California

    It is a sad story. there are some areas you need to be cautious when in the water. I'm an old dude and surfed for 40 years...never saw a shark...though I'm sure thy were there. You are more likely to dies in a car accident than by a shark attack.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Fields

      It's the shark you don't see that gets you....

      April 20, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. intelman

    man has always taken risk, to except the rewards of there adventures. But if he was smart, did due diligence, there are devices he the surfer could have worn that would have repelled the shark. But it was the roll of the dice, to surf in one of the most greatwhite shark infested waters in the world without protection. In this case, he lost.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tommyknocker45

    "Shark"? I thought it was a shark only if it climbs out of the water, walks downtown and bites a cop. Otherwise, it was a big fish. ("Absence of Malice") ;-D

    April 20, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  12. Miguel

    There will always be crude people making light of someones passing. The best thing we can all do is ignore them, they and their comments will fade away.

    As for the people commenting on the father saying "he died doing something he loved" – leave it alone, any parent who loses a child needs to beleive their death was not needless of in vain. This is one of the ways the living deal with the death of a close loved one.

    People should be sensitive to these losses, we will all be in situations where we lose loved ones, and we all are hit hard when it happens.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. Fiona

    I can well imagine how awful it was to see the shark from shore, not be able to call attention to it, and then see what ensued. The GWS visits my local waters. You can sometimes –very rarely– see one in the waves. The surfers, kayakers, boarders, windsurfers take it in stride as just part of the sport. People tend to forget (or ignore) the fact that sharks dangerous to humans do hunt off popular recreational beaches– in Hawaii, along the California Coast, Australia, New Zealand, Florida, etc. You take your chances

    April 20, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. JJ

    I used to surf a lot in college. I have seen many, many bull sharks off the coast of Texas, averaging 9' in length. They don't actively hunt humans, but they can easily mame one if they want to. I've seen tons more Tiger and other sharks off the coast of Hawaii, but in almost every case they are aloof to the presence of people. That said you have to accept you are in their world. They won't come up here and attack us, but if you go in the ocean you need to understand that is a real risk.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • mizh

      Did you mean "maim"?

      April 20, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. Shila

    I would have moved to a place with less sharks, d'uh!!! If there is 10% of losing your life, and you are only 20-years old....I would be on the first plane out and following my passion elsewhere. also, remember to poke its eyes!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Ncanon

      ...poke its eyes? A 15 foot great white coming at you and in a quick hit tearing off your leg, and you say poke its eyes?

      April 20, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Sounds all great on paper but you would of been eaten just as easily. The shark didn't swim up to him and had a lovely conversation while being stationary. The fact that you are still alive is what is amazing.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Might as well move to a place with no lightning as well then, since you are more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a shark.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • LB

      Shila, the chances of bein bitten, much less eaten by a shark is more like .00000001% Out of the millions of beach-visits each year around the world, there are a few dozen attacks and a handfull of fatalities at most.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Hoosier Pete

      Also, remember to punch a great white shark in it's stupid mouth.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • j-pap

      So I guess these a bunker you can live in. 10% chance of losing your life driving.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
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