WA: Witness reports spotting GIANT bull shark day before 16-year-old girl killed
A huge bull shark was seen on Perth’s Swan River less that 24 hours before teen Stella Berry was mauled to death – but was only reported the day after the tragedy.
Stella, 16, jumped into the river near the Fremantle traffic bridge to swim with dolphins on Saturday when a suspected bull shark latched onto her leg.
The Year 11 student was pulled from the water by heroic bystanders at about 3.30pm but could not be saved.
It has since been revealed that a 2.5metre bull shark was spotted near the site of the attack at 6pm on Friday, but the sighting was not reported to the Western Australian government’s Sharksmart tracker website until Sunday afternoon.
A huge bull shark was seen on Perth’s Swan River the day before teenager Stella Berry (pictured) was killed by a shark – but was only reported the day after her death.
There are regular bull shark sightings in the river, but Stella’s death was the first fatal shark attack in the Swan River in more than a century.
Several other recent shark sightings have been reported on the Swan River and its Canning River tributary in recent days.
That included a shark spotted 10 meters offshore from the upstream Shelley Bridge on Monday morning.
The Western Australian government’s Sharksmart tracker website (pictured) shows that a 2.5m bull shark was seen near the Fremantle bridge at 6pm on Friday, but it was not reported until Sunday
The state government is reportedly considering installing more shark nets along Perth beaches and the Swan River, but the use of drumlines has been ruled out.
‘These things are difficult to predict and difficult to avoid. No one is at fault,’ WA Premier Mark McGowan said.
‘We’ll get a report from the Fisheries Department into the whole issue. If there’s anything to be improved, we will look at any such measures, but it’s just a terrible tragedy.
The City of Melville in Perth’s southern suburbs is considering installing a shark barrier around the Bicton Bath jetty, which is halfway between where Stella was killed and a January 2021 attack at Blackwall Reach.
Both Luke and Joshua had been swimming at the same spot 10 minutes earlier and said they were unsettled by the realization they could have been attacked
On that occasion, a 3metre bull shark attacked father-of-two Cameron Wrathall with such force it broke his hip and left him with critical wounds, but he survived.
Hannah Fitzhardinge, the mayor of Fremantle, 20km south of Perth’s CBD, said installing shark nets near the Fremantle traffic bridge may be difficult due to the amount of boat traffic in the area.
But she told ABC radio the council was looking into whether shark nets could be used at the council’s other beaches.
The shark sighting revelation comes after two teenage swimmers recalled hearing a ‘big scream’ as Stella was mauled.
Luke Smith and Joshua Warwick relived the terrifying moment the attack unfolded.
‘There was this big scream and then we see a girl just jump off and we see a few fins,’ Luke said.
He made the revelation as Stella’s parents broke their silence to share their devastation after losing their ‘vibrant and happy’ daughter.
Luke Smith (left) and Joshua Warwick (right) relived the terrifying moment the attack unfolded along the Swan River in North Fremantle, at about 3.30pm on Saturday
Joshua described the scene of chaos that followed with emergency services trying desperately to revive the teenager, Nine News reported.
‘We saw the police running down the hill, and we thought maybe they were chasing someone and then we saw a girl on the ground getting resuscitated,’ he said.
Both Luke and Joshua had been swimming at the same spot 10 minutes earlier and said they were unsettled by the realization they could have been attacked.
Stella’s parents Matt and Sophie said they were ‘devastated and deeply shocked’.
‘Stella was a vibrant and happy girl with plans of living in Europe after school,’ the couple, who are both teachers, wrote in a statement.
‘She was a caring person and was a dear friend to many, across a variety of schools in the area.
Joshua described the scene of chaos that followed with emergency services trying their best to revive the mauled teenager.
Year 11 student Stella Berry, 16, had been riding a jet ski when she jumped into the water to swim with dolphins and was attacked by a suspected bull shark (stock image)
‘She had an infectious laugh which we couldn’t help laughing at too when we heard it.
‘She was a beautiful and loving big sister and the best daughter we could have hoped for.’
Stella’s sister on Sunday posted an emotional tribute on social media.
Thank you for your blessings. She was the best sister I could ever wish for, I would never change a thing about her,’ her TikTok post read.
Some of Stella’s friends gathered on the banks of the Swan River near the spot where she was attacked, which has been turned into a makeshift memorial site.
Four teens stood arm-in-arm looking out at the water before being joined by two more friends as the intermittent sounds of crying and wailing carried along the river banks.
Friend Lara Connolly said Stella was a gifted runner who wanted to compete in a marathon.
Friends described Stella (pictured) as the ‘sweetest and smartest’ girl that they knew and one who ‘never did wrong by anyone’
Stella was the ‘sweetest and smartest girl that I knew’, Lara told the ABC.
‘She never did anything wrong to anybody. She was so kind. She loved art. I’d ride my bike to see her sometimes and I’d see her running.’
Lara said she and another friend of Stella’s, Teagan McArthur, had vowed to run a marathon in honor of the 16-year-old.
Shenton College principal Michal Morgan said Stella’s death had caused ‘great sadness, sincere empathy and the deepest regret’.
‘I understand and respect that people respond to grief and loss in different ways, and that a loss such as this can trigger a broad range of emotional responses that are not always anticipated or evident,’ Mr Morgan told The West.
‘I have personally offered, on behalf of the college, our condolences and support to Stella’s family during this very sad time.’
Matt and Sophie pay tribute to their daughter Stella
We are devastated and deeply shocked by the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella.
We want to acknowledge the amazing support we have received from our family, friends, authorities and the WA community.
Stella was a vibrant and happy girl with plans of living in Europe after school.
She was a caring person and was a dear friend to many, across a variety of schools in the area.
She had an infectious laugh which we couldn’t help laughing at too when we heard it. Our thoughts are with Stella’s many friends at this time.
Stella loved creating art and spending time with her friends, particularly at the river and beach. She had her skipper’s ticket and often took friends out on the river for a day of ‘scurfing’.
She was a beautiful and loving big sister and the best daughter we could have hoped for.