Interview: West Aussie Shark Survivor, "Those Blokes Are Absolute Heroes and Without a Doubt Saved My Life"

11 Aug 2020 5 Share


By Jason Lock

Phil Mummert had been surfing Bunker Bay, near Dunsborough in Western Australia when he was attacked by a five metre shark a couple of weeks ago.

The shark bit straight through Phil's board and left a savage-looking wound on his leg. The shark had the bottom half of his board in its mouth and the 28-year-old surfer managed to get away by pushing it further into the shark and punching it on the head.

A crew of local legends helped Phil to shore before emergency services arrived. At the same time, Misha Wright, Phil's partner, had been walking on the beach with their young puppy Koa – mixed reports made their way to her, the initial relaying the wound wasn't bad, but as she sprinted towards Phil, other people were meeting her on the way telling her it could be serious.

Anyway, Phil's in recovery and spoke with us about a week ago, with Misha close by. Here's how the conversation went and Misha's run down of the scenario is below too.

Hey Phil, how are you feeling right now?
I’m doing ok, the docs have me on plenty of meds so not in too much pain. I don’t think the reality of it has really sunk in yet, I’ve spoken to some other people who have been attacked who say it takes a good couple of weeks to hit you.

For sure. Where were you surfing and what happened?
I was surfing a spot called The Farm in Bunker Bay near Dunsborough in WA. I don’t remember too well what happened, I didn’t see it coming at all, he must’ve come from behind/underneath me.

I was sitting on my board and I remember feeling the force that the shark hit me with and then the next thing I remember is being in the water and my board was bitten in half.

I could see the nose of the board and lots of foam scattered around. The tail half was still attached to me with my leggy and it was in its mouth. It ended up being in between me and the shark, so I grabbed it with both hands and tried to push it in to his mouth.

The other guys in the water said I was punching him in the head and on the nose as well. I remember the shark swimming around me and I was just trying to keep my eyes on him and I was trying to push him away. I remember seeing the size of his dorsal fin as he was swimming around, it was massive like at least a metre high. He was still there right next to me when the other guys got to me.

Have you had any shark encounters before?
I’ve seen small tiger sharks from the beach before but never when I’ve been in the water.

When you got hit, what were your initial thoughts?
I think it took what felt like a few seconds for me to realise what was going on, but really I have no sense of the time, my mind was just going so fast everything seemed like it was in slow motion. Then, once I realised what was happening, my first instinct was to just keep that piece of board in its mouth because I figured if he was biting that then he wasn’t biting me.

How did you make it to the beach?
These three absolute legends, Alex Oliver, Liam Ryan, and Jess Woolhouse, paddled straight towards me while the shark was still there having a go at me. Alex was on a longboard and they got me up onto his board and started paddling me in to shore (50-100m).

Of course the ocean went flat but we were eventually able to get on a small wave that took us in. Those blokes are absolute heroes and without a doubt saved my life.

Woah, some full on legends there. What did the doctors say about the wound?
I don’t know how but by some miracle I just got so lucky that there wasn’t too much damage to the muscle or tendons or arteries. They said if one of the bites was three centimetres more towards the inside of my leg that it would’ve cut the femoral artery and I would have bled out.

They ended up stitching it together internally and then stapling it together. Ended up with 63 staples. I really don’t know how that happened, really I shouldn’t be alive. Or at the very least lost a leg.

Might not be the first thing on your mind right now, but when can you surf again?
Not too sure when I’ll be able to get back in the water, I see the surgeon in another week's time to remove the staples and he’ll tell me more. I think it will just depend on how long it takes for the pain to go away.

A week or so later, Misha (right) met with the legends who helped save Phil (second from right). L-R, Jess Woolhouse, Liam Ryan, Alex Oliver.

A week or so later, Misha (right) met with the legends who helped save Phil (second from right). L-R, Jess Woolhouse, Liam Ryan, Alex Oliver.

Meanwhile, his partner Misha had been on the beach about a kilometre away, this is how the news hit her:

"I was at the complete other end of the beach when it happened so I didn’t see the attack.

"I could see a bunch of people gathered at the edge of dunes in the distance and I actually thought they were all there because of a fire from the smoke I saw coming from somewhere near them (it was a controlled one).

"I then saw people running in my direction waving their arms in the air but I had no idea what it was, at this point I just thought they were waving to their mates still in the water, which turns out they were, but it was more of a warning than a wave.

"The first guy to reach me said something like: 'He’s been attacked by a shark, it got a chunk of his leg,' and I was like, 'Who, Phil?' And he said, 'Yeah Phil asked us to find you.'

"I was in shock and actually couldn’t believe it. He then said, 'It’s not that bad... but maybe you should run.' I then started to run across the beach with Koa. The next guy to reach me said, 'It’s pretty bad.'

"When I finally got to where Phil was I found him laying on a longboard with two people holding his leg tight and a bunch of surfers crowded around. Thank you to everyone there that helped.

"I was still in shock as we waited for the ambulance. I felt so much relief that there were so many kind people around helping out it seemed like they knew what they were doing which reassured me. Also the fact that Phil was still conscious and talking made me feel calm and less stressed, although I was still in shock.

"I felt more relief when the police and ambulance finally arrived. I assumed I’d be riding in the ambulance with Phil so I gave our dog and his car keys to one of the surfers there and followed Phil to the ambulance.

"Most of the surfers had left at this stage and a helicopter flew in and I was told they were flying him to Royal Perth Hospital and that there was no room for me on the helicopter and at this point reality set in and I freaked out and started crying. Perth is a three hour drive and I didn’t have my car, keys or my dog and I was scared I wasn’t going to see Phil for a very long time or know what’s happening and I just wanted to stay with him.

"After a good 15 minutes of not knowing what was happening they said I could get on the chopper and we ended up going to Bunbury hospital for his surgery, which was an hour away."

This interview originally appeared on Magic Seaweed

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