Shark attack rescuer recalls ordeal

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
Jo Lucas after rescuing Jason Cull 10 years ago. Main picture: The dramatic rescue captured in 2008.
Camera IconJo Lucas after rescuing Jason Cull 10 years ago. Main picture: The dramatic rescue captured in 2008. Credit: Mark Bickerdike 10th May 2008.

“You have to remember something like that, you remember every detail of it.”

Joanne Lucas is constantly reminded of the sliding doors moment she reacted and saved the life of 37-year-old teacher Jason Cull after he was mauled by a shark at Middleton beach.

Today marks 10 years to do the day since the dramatic rescue, which made headlines across the country.

Mrs Lucas, an Albany Surf Life Saving Club life member, would not have been at the beach on a Saturday morning training for the upcoming surf craft challenge if not for Mother’s Day the next day.

Waiting for her teammates to arrive at the beach, Mrs Lucas sprang instinctively into action, reacting to screams from the beach.

At the time, a shark attack at the popular swimming beach was unheard of.

Jason Cull in hospital
Camera IconJason Cull in hospital

“Being lifesavers, you are trained to go out and rescue someone, so when they said someone was in trouble and I went down and they said ‘he’s been attacked by a shark’, I just didn’t think about it,” she said this week. “That’s what you’re supposed to do as a lifesaver. It just becomes second nature.

“It’s embedded in your mind what you should do, so I just reacted to the situation and afterwards I thought ‘oh my goodness, what did I do?’.”

The mother-of-three received two bravery awards for the rescue as she hauled Mr Cull about 80m to shore after he was dragged by the leg under the water.

The white shark off Middleton beach.
Camera IconThe white shark off Middleton beach. Credit: Fisheries

Mrs Lucas was shocked to discover two more swimmers were in the water also at the time.

“It was a beautiful day, perfect for everything,” she said.

“There was lots of people down there, there had been dolphins out there too, and that’s what we saw and that’s what I kept telling myself when I was out there. I’m not a very good swimmer and you are on just adrenaline.

“All I knew is I had to get to him.

“Adrenaline just makes you into a super-person.

“I don’t cry very often.

“The ambulance was luckily very quick and I wouldn’t let him go until we got him into the ambulance and then after that I turned around to someone and said ‘what did I just do?’.”

Jo Lucas on Middleton Beach on the morning of the attack.
Camera IconJo Lucas on Middleton Beach on the morning of the attack. Credit: Laurie Benson

Mrs Lucas said she had not had contact with Mr Cull since the attack.

“The good thing is he got to carry on with a great life, he got to see his kids grow up and I hope he is very happy in what he is doing,” she said. “It could have been a really bad situation as we have had in the past with the shark attacks recently. Speaking to the Albany Advertiser ahead of the anniversary, Mrs Lucas said every shark attack in WA since had brought back memories of the day but the ordeal had not changed her love of the ocean.

She said she believed the installation of the swimming enclosure at Ellen Cove had given swimmers reassurance.

“When it was put in, the number of people who came up to us and said ‘we feel so much better having it there’ and I can understand it because after the attack no one was at the beach at all,” she said.

Jason Cull after the attack.
Camera IconJason Cull after the attack. Credit: Laurie Benson

“Since the shark net, people have come back in droves. They feel happy, they feel safe and even the ones who didn’t want it there, I think, are quite happy it is there and feel just a bit more secure.”

“It hasn’t affected my love for the ocean. I still love the ocean very much, I still love the surf club and am still involved very much with that.”

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