The wife of a shark attack victim gave up her desperate attempt to save her husband when she realised his “eyes were open but he was unresponsive,” an inquest has heard.
Gary Johnson had just entered the water with his wife, Karen Milligan, when a shark attacked him just off Devils Rock in Western Australia on January 5.
Karen told WA Coroner’s Court the couple had just reached the seabed when Mr Johnson disappeared over a mound and then reappeared.
She swam towards her husband, but when she arrived at the mound, Karen spotted a large shark tail “flapping” up and down as the water around her became “full of blood and sand”.
Senior Constable Robertson said Ms Milligan saw towards her husband when normal visibility return, but realised his “eyes were open, but he was unresponsive”.
Karen then saw Gary had suffered a traumatic injury to his right arm and was no longer wearing his mask or air tank.
He said: “Ms Milligan described Mr Johnson as being a very cautious diver and it was his habit to attach a black rope to a rock on the seabed as a secondary anchor in case the wind picked up.
“Mr Johnson would turn off his shark shield when he reached the bottom to tie off the rope … because the rope had previously tangled on the shield and given him a shock.
“He would religiously turn it back on again when the rope was secured.”
Robertson said Ms Milligan then swam with Mr Johnson back to their boat but she could not get him on-board.
Constable Robertson said: “Ms Milligan had formed the belief that her husband was no longer alive and her attempts to get him on-board the boat were futile.”
She then released her grip on her husband, and he sank beneath the waves, the hearing heard.
An emergency search began soon after but only a small piece of Mr Johnson’s wetsuit was found, with divers later recovering his diving vest, buoyancy compensator device and oxygen tank.
In a statement shortly after Mr Johnson’s death, Ms Milligan described him as a kind, gentle and strong man.
She said: “He and I were at home in and on the ocean.
“We would go out diving in our boat whenever we could, most weekends. We were always aware of the risks and often told each other that if we were attacked by a shark that would just be unlucky.”