Hero helps save mate after NQ shark attack

A Hinchinbrook man credited with saving the lives of two men in separate wildlife encounters has likely saved the life of a third man mauled by a bull shark on a spearfishing trip at the Great Barrier Reef today.

Rick Bettua, a former US Navy master diver, arrived at the Dungeness boat ramp in Hinchinbrook, with no pulse after his upper left leg was mauled by a bull shark on the Great Barrier Reef this afternoon. Picture: Cameron Bates
Rick Bettua, a former US Navy master diver, arrived at the Dungeness boat ramp in Hinchinbrook, with no pulse after his upper left leg was mauled by a bull shark on the Great Barrier Reef this afternoon. Picture: Cameron Bates

In an exclusive interview with the Townsville Bulletin, Peter Kocica recounted the dramatic underwater attack and rescue and revealed the victim was his close friend Rick Bettua, a former US Navy master diver.

Police said Mr Bettua arrived at the Dungeness boat ramp at 1.10pm this afternoon in a critical condition.

It is understood he arrived with no pulse but was stabilised by Hinchinbrook paramedics over the course of 30 minutes before he was flown by rescue helicopter to Townsville.

Peter Kocica at Dungeness as friend Rick Bettua is flown to hospital after a horror shark attack during a spearfishing trip off Hinchinbrook Island this afternoon. Picture: CAMERON BATES
Peter Kocica at Dungeness as friend Rick Bettua is flown to hospital after a horror shark attack during a spearfishing trip off Hinchinbrook Island this afternoon. Picture: CAMERON BATES

Mr Kocica said it was the group's last dive of the day at the northern end of Britomart Reef east of Cardwell Island.

They had noticed the presence of a couple of large bull sharks earlier in the day.

He said both men - who were among three directly credited with saving the life of Glenn Dickson in a high-profile shark attack off Cardwell in 2017 - shot fish at the same time, with Mr Bettua's line becoming entangled on coral.

"I've looked across and I've just seen this big bull shark flying over across (the coral) and out of the deep and he's tried to (protect himself) and it grabbed on to his leg and took a couple of bites I saw."

Rick Bettua is one of three men, including Mr Kocica directly credited with saving the life of Glenn Dickson in a high-profile shark attack off Cardwell in 2017.
Rick Bettua is one of three men, including Mr Kocica directly credited with saving the life of Glenn Dickson in a high-profile shark attack off Cardwell in 2017.

Mr Kocica said that despite the presences of the shark, he swam across and down to his mate to initiate the rescue.

"I grabbed him, blood was pouring out of his leg, and we swam back to the boat about 30 metres away."

Mr Kocica, who also saved his son-in-law who bitten by a death adder after a kayaking expedition in a crocodile-infested river in May, said he applied a tourniquet to Mr Bettua's leg and applied pressure, calling over two larger and faster boats to rush his critically injured mate to Dungeness.

After loading Mr Bettua on to one of the boats, Mr Kocica said he turned and headed for port, alerting emergency services to the unfolding situation.

Mr Kocica said it was fortuitous that he had unloaded Mr Bettua on to one of the larger boats for two reasons, one being there was a doctor on board and that his own boat ran out of fuel on the way into Dungeness.

Rick Bettua, stabilised at the boat ramp, is loaded on to the rescue helicopter. Picture: Cameron Bates
Rick Bettua, stabilised at the boat ramp, is loaded on to the rescue helicopter. Picture: Cameron Bates


Originally published as Hero helps save mate after NQ shark attack


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