A former US Navy master diver who saved the life of shark attack victim Glenn Dickson three years ago was on Sunday night fighting for life after being mauled himself.

Rick Bettua, 59, was spearfishing on the Great Barrier Reef off Hinchinbrook Island when he was bitten on the upper thigh by a bull shark shortly after noon Sunday.

Close friend Peter Kocica was in the water with Mr Bettua, at the popular Britomart Reef, when the shark attacked.

He described how he swam towards his bleeding friend and helped him into their boat before waving down a larger, faster vessel to take him to Dungeness boat ramp.

"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 taken a couple of bites I saw," Mr Kocica said.

 

Rick Bettua is one of three men credited with saving the life of Glenn Dickson in a high-profile shark attack in 2017.
Rick Bettua is one of three men credited with saving the life of Glenn Dickson in a high-profile shark attack in 2017.

 

He said they had earlier spotted two large bull sharks lurking where they were fishing at the northern end of the reef.

Mr Kocica said the attack happened as they were doing their last dive of the day, just after they had both taken a shot at the same fish.

The experienced spearfisherman said he swam across and down to get to his badly injured friend.

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

 

Rick Bettua was flown to hospital in a critical condition. Picture: Cameron Bates
Rick Bettua was flown to hospital in a critical condition. Picture: Cameron Bates

 

Mr Kocica said he applied a tourniquet to Mr Bettua's leg before waving down two large boats nearby.

One had a doctor on board, so Mr Bettua was transferred to that vessel. It arrived at the boat ramp at 1.10pm where they were met by paramedics and a rescue helicopter.

It is understood Mr Bettua arrived with no pulse but was stabilised by paramedics over the course of 30 minutes before being flown to Townsville.

Incredibly, it was Mr Bettua who was credited with saving Mr Dickson in 2017 during another bull shark attack off Hinchinbrook Island.

 

Rick Bettua. Picture Facebook
Rick Bettua. Picture Facebook

 

Both Mr Bettua and Mr Kocica were among those who rescued Mr Dickson, with Mr Bettua using his Navy training to perform emergency first aid.

"The quick thinking of Glenn's friend, former US Navy master diver Rick Bettua, had been instrumental stopping him from bleeding out on the boat, using a makeshift tourniquet to compress Glenn's leg," a statement released by RACQ LifeFlight Rescue at the time said.

Dr Alan Turner, who was on board the rescue helicopter, said Mr Dickson had been lucky to survive. His leg was amputated.

 

Glenn Dickson survived a savage shark attack but lost his right leg in the attack in 2017. Picture: Marc McCormack
Glenn Dickson survived a savage shark attack but lost his right leg in the attack in 2017. Picture: Marc McCormack

 

"I went into the back of the ambulance to see the patient for the first time and I was struck by just how grey and pale the young guy was. He was very unwell," Dr Turner said in 2017.

"Based on the patient's vital signs I would estimate he lost more than two litres of blood within the first two minutes of the shark attack before the tourniquet was applied by his friends on the fishing boat."

Mr Bettua was last night listed as being in a critical condition.

In early September, 46-year-old real estate agent Nick Slater died after being bitten on the leg by a shark while surfing off Greenmount beach.

And in July, 36-year-old Sunshine Coast man Matthew Tratt was killed by a shark while spearfishing off Fraser Island.

 

 

Originally published as Shark mauls rescue diver off Qld



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