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Mystery bite on Aussie tourist not a shark, confirms Phuket experts

PHUKET: Shark expert Tassapon Krajangdara, a specialist at the Phuket Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre, today confirmed that the sea animal that bit and seriously injured an Australian woman’s foot at Karon Beach this week was not a shark.

By Tanyaluk Sakoot

Wednesday 2 September 2015, 05:30PM

Aussie tourist Jane Neame, 37, was swimming at Karon Beach yesterday morning (Sept 1) when she suffered serious bite wounds to her left foot and was rushed to hospital. (See story here.)

“The shape of the wound is guaranteed not from a shark bite. It is not from a hammerhead shark or any other kind of shark, as some people think,” Mr Tassapon told The Phuket News today.

“The wound is the wrong-shaped curve. This we have confirmed by information and photos provided by doctors at Bangkok Hospital Phuket.”

Mr Tassapon believes that the culprit was either a puffer fish, or a trigger fish.

“The wound shows that the teeth that bit her were sharp and it was a straight, clean bite, like those of a puffer fish or a trigger fish,” he said.

“Puffer fish are in the Tetraodontidae family and trigger fish are in the Balistidae family, but both are in the order of Tetraodontiformes. So I cannot tell exactly which type of fish bit her, but it was not shark.”

Mr Tassapon suggested that the fish that bit Ms Neame was defending its territory

Lifeguards returned to the area by jet-ski this morning – the same time when Ms Neame was bitten yesterday – and confirmed that large puffer fish were still in the area, not far from a reef.

Lifeguard Weera Palikam, who rendered assistance to Ms Neame on the beach yesterday, said, “We inspected around there, and we found some puffer fish. They are quite big, around three kilograms.”

The puffer fish spotted today were about a foot long, he said, not joking.

In the meantime, lifeguards have moved the red-yellow flags marking the swimming area at that section of beach further away from the site of the attack.

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Santi Pawai, the director of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports Phuket office, visited Ms Neame in hospital today.

“She looks like she is recovering well. She said that she is not worried about it much, that it was just an accident,” he told The Phuket News.

However, Ms Neame is more than six months’ pregnant and has had tendons to two toes severed.

Ms Neame, from Brisbane, Australia, was holidaying in Phuket with her partner Robert Passmore.

“I was in knee-deep water at Karon Beach just on the waves when I felt pain on the bottom of my foot, then again on the top of my foot,” she told The Phuket News.

“It was so quick and I fell over into the waves, and my partner brought me from the water,” she said.

Ms Neame has been told to stay in hospital for up to three days so doctors can prevent the wound from becoming infected.

Apparently, she will require additional surgery in Australia.

Ms Neame confirmed that she has full travel insurance, so her medical costs for the injury are covered.

Meanwhile, Mr Santi literally laughed off reports that Ms Neame may have been bitten by a shark.

“We don’t get shark attacks here,” he said.



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