Updated 3:54pm — At 1.24pm a member of the public standing on rocks at the south end of Muriwai Beach called 111 and reported seeing a man being attacked by a shark.
Police raced to the scene by road and the Eagle helicopter was also dispatched.
Eagle crew spotted the shark, which the Herald understands was at least 12 feet long, while it was still near the man’s body. A source told the Herald that the Eagle stayed above the shark so that police could locate it in an IRB.
When they reached the shark an officer fired at least one shot at it. It is not known whether he hit the shark, which disappeared from sight seconds later.
The Eagle remained in the air keeping watch in case the shark returned to the area. Police were able to confirm that the man was dead in the water.
A witness who saw a man die in the shark attack this afternoon said as soon as there was blood in the water, three or four other sharks joined the attack.
The man, who was out fishing, saw the victim swimming around the west coast beach and near Maori Bay. He didn’t have any special equipment with him.
The witness told 3 News he saw the distressed swimmer put his hand in the air. But as soon as he did that, a shark attacked him. The blood in the water attracted about three or four more sharks.
Police have said in a statement the attack happened about 1.30pm and that the man was being bitten by a large shark.
It is understood the man was a local and his family have gathered at the scene. People have been seen embracing in the surf club car park and were being escorted into the club.
A hearse has arrived at the scene to remove the body of the swimmer.
Police believe the shark was likely to be a Great White.
Dr Malcolm Francis, a NIWA Principal Scientist who studies sharks, told One News that based on the reports it is likely the attack was by a Great White Shark.
He said there are few other species that grow to 12-foot long – believed to be the length of the Muriwai shark.
He said Great Whites are known in the area and it is likely the shark mistook the person swimming as a seal.
A press conference is to be held at the beach soon.
Muriwai Beach is closed to the public until further notice.