16-year-old girl killed in shark attack in Australia, parents 'devastated'

A 16-year-old girl from Western Australia has died after she was attacked by a shark while swimming in a river outside Perth.

Stella Berry was declared dead on Saturday after being pulled from the Swan River.

She had been riding jet skis with her friends when she jumped into the water to swim with a passing pod of dolphins, according to Inspector Paul Robinson from Western Australia Police.

“This is an extremely traumatic incident for anyone to witness,” Robinson said in a press briefing, noting that police tried to save Berry’s life but she died at the scene.

Local authorities are still investigating what type of shark was involved in the attack, though the Western Australia Fisheries Minister said it was “likely” a bull shark.

Matt and Sophie Berry wrote that they are “devastated and deeply shocked” in a statement following their daughter’s death. They say she was a “vibrant and happy girl” who loved art and the water.

“She was a caring person and was a dear friend to many … a beautiful and loving big sister and the best daughter we could have hoped for,” the parents wrote.

Local journalist Herlyn Kaur for the Australia Broadcasting Corporation reported that dozens of Berry’s friends and loved ones held a memorial for her on the banks of the Swan River on Sunday.

The BBC cited fisheries experts who said that Berry’s death is the first fatal shark attack in the Swan River in 100 years, and that it’s unusual to find sharks in that part of the river.

In 2021, a bull shark attacked a man in his 50s in the Swan River. He was pulled from the water by witnesses and survived, CNN reported.

Shark attacks are exceedingly rare and most often happen in hot spot locations like Florida, Australia and South Africa.

In 2022, there were nine shark-related deaths worldwide, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), a scientific database of shark attacks based out of the University of Florida.

“The number of unprovoked shark attacks worldwide decreased last year, tying with 2020 for the fewest number of reported incidents in the last 10 years,” the organization wrote in a news release.

Australia saw nine unprovoked shark bites last year, which was lower than average for the region. Four bites occurred in New South Wales, four bites occurred in Western Australia and a single incident occurred in Victoria, the ISAF writes.

Bull sharks are one of the “Big Three” species in shark attacks, alongside white and tiger sharks. They are large sharks that are capable of inflicting serious injuries and are commonly found in areas also frequented by humans.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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