‘I knew she was in trouble’: Hero hubbie on wife’s shark bite
The heroic husband who punched a shark in the eye until the animal released its teeth from his wife's leg says his partner showed true bravery in the jaws of death.
Mark Rapley recounted the harrowing moment the 2.5 metre juvenile great white shark latched onto his wife, Chantelle Doyle, as the pair surfed near Port Macquarie on Saturday morning.
With their young son being babysat by his grandparents, the active, outdoorsy couple wanted to take full advantage of the warm weather and clear water at Shelly Beach on the NSW Mid-North coast.
"Getting out to surf together was a lovely, beautiful morning thing to do," Mr Rapley told reporters outside John Hunter Hospital on Sunday.
They'd paddled out just ten minutes earlier when Mr Rapley saw his wife hit with the force he described as being "like a punch".
Mr Rapley rushed toward her, the seasoned surfer and diver knew what danger his wife was in before she even clambered back up on her board and screamed out "shark!".
"I knew she was going to be in trouble... I just started paddling over and you react," he said.
Ms Doyle clung to her board as the white shark circled and came back in for a second attack. It latched onto her right calf and Mr Rapley, now just a few metres from his wife, clambered across her back and started swinging.
"I was trying to leverage punches down onto it from above," he said, becoming emotional.
"When you see the mother of your child, your support and everything that's who you are - you just react, you just think 'get off that calf, get off'."
"You're not thinking 'punch' your body just reacts... you start punching, you start thinking where to punch, I'll attack the eye."
The couple weren't alone in the chaos - local surfers had rushed to their aid including Paul Munro, Mark White and Jed Toohey, while his 15-year-old daughter, Domi, rushed ashore to raise the alarm.
"I saw the shark and I thought that looks like a white shark to me, and it was bigger than me," Mr White said.
"I just thought this is not good. It's going to hit us again… I just didn't look down after that."
By the time the shark had backed off Ms Doyle was still clinging to her upside-down board as blood drained into the water.
Her husband said she showed true grit and strength when she realised she had to get back in the water, flip her board and get back on to paddle back in.
Mr White said he and the other locals began pushing the injured Ms Doyle into the shore.
The couple and the surfers were paddling in when a wave surged up behind them.
Mr Rapley pushed his wife into the wave and the other surfers, who had rushed to help them, hauled Ms Doyle onto the sand.
"The worst part for me is I'm paddling in behind her seeing her going up the beach and wondering what you get to on the beach - that thought keeps coming back to me," Mr Rapley said.
On the beach the locals had already called the ambulances and a nurse named Sue turned Mr White's leg-rope into a tourniquet around Ms Doyle's bleeding limb.
"She knew she had leg injuries, and she knew it wasn't good, but she was amazing she just kept it together," Mr White said.
The surfers put Ms Doyle on a longboard and carried it, like a stretcher, hundreds of metres to the waiting ambulance.
"We all surf there together quite a lot and I've never come across anything like this before," Mr Munro said.
"It was early morning, the waves were small, the water was clear. It was quite surprising that the shark was just out beyond the break."
The locals praised Ms Doyle for staying calm despite her injuries, and Mr Rapley for jumping into the path of danger to save her.
"She was very composed and so was he," Mr Munro said.
"If you're in a situation like that you like to think you'll act that way. I think she was quite lucky the way it fell together, hopefully she recovers quickly."
Mr Rapley is a reluctant hero but wanted the other surfers, those on the beach and those working to save his life to wear the label instead of him.
"I feel most people would do (what I did) in that situation," he said.
"But two guys paddled behind me straight toward her, and that's not their wife. I don't like that (hero) title but I would love it bandied around with the collection of people who did an amazing job to keep her alive - and she's alive."
Mr White said it was "very very uncommon" to hear of a shark at Shelly Beach.
Ms Doyle is recovering in John Hunter Hospital after enduring hours of surgery. Her husband says the road to recovery will be long as she needs microsurgery to restore blood flow, nerve damage and sensation in her whole leg.
"You want to talk heroes, there were probably 60 people from the time she arrived at Port Macquarie to the time she got airlifted to getting here... there would have been 60 people plus all busying themselves with making sure she was fine," he said.
Mr Rapley said his wife is "up and down" but "still strong" as she worries how her new son will cope with her in hospital over the foreseeable future.
He said she's a passionate conservationist and they hold no ill feelings toward the shark that attacked her.
The local surfers say they'll not abandon their "little playground" in the wake of the attack but are steering clear for a few days.
Originally published as 'I knew she was in trouble': Hero husband tells of wife's horror shark bite