‘I choked on bloody water after shark’s teeth ripped my flesh like saws’

A man choked on bloody water after a shark's teeth ripped through his flesh and bones like they were saws.

Paul de Gelder, 45, lost part of his arm and leg in a shark attack but has urged people not to fear the ocean predators.

Having been a paratrooper for four years, de Gelder became a Navy bomb disposal diver and was undergoing a routine military exercise in 2009 when he was swimming in across the waters of naval base HMAS Kuttabul in Sydney Harbour, Australia.

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Swimming in the murky waters of the harbour on a February morning, De Gelder's worst nightmare came true as a battle for his life ensued when a shark bit him.

De Gelder called it a moment he had "dreaded all [his] life" as he fell into a state of shock.

He said: "I was in pain when it grabbed me, but at this moment it wasn’t any worse than some of the hard parachute landings I’d had in the army or skateboard accidents I’d had as a kid.

"I tried to punch the shark and that’s when I realised my right hand was pinned by its teeth on to my leg.

"All the fight left my body at that moment as the shark’s rows of teeth worked through my flesh and bones like saws."

The Australian said he believed his death was inevitable during the attack and had accepted his fate after looking back on his past of being bullied and realising what he had achieved in his life since then.

He started to "choke on bloody water" as the shark pulled him deeper into the ocean and to de Gelder's surprise, the shark let him go and disappeared.

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Despite the 45-year-old almost miraculously escaping from the clutches of the apex predator, he was in no way safe as blood gushed from his open wounds.

"There was a thick coating of blood on the water, and more was pouring out of me," de Gelder said.

"This one animal may have decided I wasn’t for it, but how long until more bull sharks came to check out the stink of blood? One bite had almost killed me. Another would surely end things."

Despite his injuries, he managed to swim to a safety boat where he commended the doctors, nurses, service personnel and blood donors for saving his life.

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Now a motivational speaker and author, de Gelder spoke of his appreciation of sharks and how humans must take better care of the world around us.

"I know there are people out there, just like me now, who hold a deep respect for sharks, and there are people out there who are like I used to be, believing we’d be better off killing them all, "he said.

"I wrote my book because I want to share my appreciation – and especially with those that fear them – of how truly amazing these animals are.

"Just taking a stroll along any coastline on the planet, you can see in the sand our destructive force through the trash that washes up on the shore."


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