Swan River shark attack: Teen girl killed in fatal mauling in North Fremantle

Swan River shark attack: Teen girl killed in fatal mauling in North Fremantle

The parents of Stella Berry, the Perth teenager who died in the first first fatal shark attack in the Swan River in a century, have revealed the devastation of the loss of their “beautiful girl”.

The 16-year-old girl’s parents Sophie and Matt Berry broke their silence and released a statement and three photos of their “vibrant and happy girl” on Sunday night.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Teenage girl killed in shark attack in North Fremantle

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“We are devastated and deeply shocked by the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella,” the statment reads.

“We want to acknowledge the amazing support we have received from our family, friends, authorities and the WA community.

“Stella was a vibrant and happy girl with plans of living in Europe after school. She was a caring person and was a dear friend to many, across a variety of schools in the area.

The parents of Stella Berry (pictured) said she was a caring person who had plans to travel to Europe. Credit: Supplied

“She had an infectious laugh which we couldn’t help laughing at too when we heard it. Our thoughts are with Stella’s many friends at this time.

The statement also acknowledged the youngster’s keen love of the water.

“Stella loved creating art and spending times with her friends, particularly at the river and beach. She had her skipper’s ticket and often took friends out on the river for a day of scurfing,” it read.

“She was a beautiful and loving big sister and the best daughter we could have hoped for.

“We respectfully ask that the media now allow us the space and time we need to grieve our darling girl.”

The statement follows the identification of the teenager, who was fatally mauled on Saturday afternoon, by her Perth school.

Shenton College principal Michal Morgan told The West Australian the school was coming to terms with Berry’s death with “great sadness, sincere empathy and the deepest regret”.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Teen killed in Swan River shark attack

Stella was pulled from the water near the Fremantle traffic bridge in North Fremantle before 3.45 pm on Saturday.

Police said she had critical injuries, understood to have been to her legs, and despite the best efforts of paramedics she could not be saved.

Family and friends were in a state of shock at the scene of the unthinkable tragedy Saturday afternoon.

Morgan said the school had Berry’s family’s permission to share the news of her death.

Family are grieving the death of a girl in the Swan River. Credit: 7NEWS

“I understand and respect that people respond to grief and loss in different ways, and that a loss such as this can trigger a broad range of emotional responses that are not always anticipated or evident,” he said to The West.

“To this end, Shenton College and our entire Student Support team (School Psychologists, Student Support Officers, Chaplains, Nurses, Year Leaders, and other staff) will be available to support students as needed. Further correspondence about how students and staff can access support will be provided this afternoon.

“I have personally offered, on behalf of the College, our condolences and support to Stella’s family during this very sad time. As all of you will be aware it is vital that we respect the wishes of Stella’s family who have requested understanding and privacy during this difficult time.

“Shenton College respectfully acknowledges the life of Stella Berry.”

Police are currently on the ground, piecing together what exactly unfolded.

“What we’re being advised is that (the girl) was with friends on the river. They were on jetskis, possibly a pod of dolphins were seen nearby and the young female jumped in the water to swim near the dolphins,” Fremantle district acting inspector Paul Robinson said Saturday evening, adding “this is an extremely traumatic incident for anyone to witness”.

Authorities were told a man put his own life on the line, jumping into the water to get to the girl and pull her to the shore.

Police boats were deployed too, scouring the river looking for the animal, thought to be a bull shark.

Police have been scouring the river looking for the animal responsible. Credit: 7NEWS

A nearby resident said she heard people screaming and was confronted with the horrific scene when she went outside.

Another witness told News Corp he was jumping from a nearby traffic bridge rope swing when he saw people rush to the beach.

“We were completely unaware of this attack and had been swimming and jumping off for about an hour to 45 minutes,” Joshua Banks, 16, said.

Bank said prior to the incident his group of friends spotted a pod of dolphins in the water near where the girl was jetskiing with a friend.

“They passed and we saw them get off the jet skis near the beach and jump off and swim to the shore quickly.”

“We are all grateful and aware it could’ve been us and are all shaken about what happened. “

“We like to thank a local for coming over and informing (us) as the police that passed saw that we were swimming and did not inform us about the recent shark attack,” he told the outlet.

The attack came just moments after Perth had reached its high of 38.3C.

It is just the second time in 50 years there has been a shark attack in the Swan River and is the first fatal one in 100 years, after a schoolboy succumbed to his injuries on January 31, 1923.

Fremantle detectives will now prepare a report for the coroner, and the Department of Fisheries are also working with authorities.

Swimmers have been warned to stay out of the Swan River in North Fremantle for the rest of Saturday.

Swan River shark attacks

The attack comes just days after Cameron Wrathall spoke about the potential for a protective shark net or barrier to be installed within the Swan River.

Wrathall was mauled by a 3m bull shark as he swam near Bicton’s Blackwall Reach a little over two years ago.

The shark attacked him with such force on January 14, 2021, he was left with a broken hip and critical wounds.

The predator took a gaping bite from the father of two’s leg, severing nerves, muscles and tissue, with the sheer blood loss stopping his heart.

The pain he feels every day is a constant reminder of what he survived, and medical experts say it is “remarkable and quite extraordinary” he kept his leg.

This week he revealed he had spoken with the City of Melville about the potential barrier being installed.

“It would just be enclosing an area a bit like the barriers they have on the coast, and that would make it a safer area for swimmers,” he said.

Cameron Wrathall has called for a protective barrier in the Swan River. Credit: Swan River
Wrathall was left with nasty reminders of the attack. Credit: 7NEWS

The City of Melville told 7NEWS.com.au it was considering a shark barrier or repellent technology at Bicton Baths jetty.

But it said a “net” was not on the cards because it would present an entanglement risk to swimmers and marine life.

“The shark barriers we are investigating are made of recyclable materials and are flexible enough to allow small marine life to pass through, but rigid enough to prevent the entry of large marine animals, such as sharks,” Melville mayor George Gear said.

“While we acknowledge shark attacks are rare, the barrier could provide peace of mind for swimmers and encourage the community to swim and be active in the river.”

Bicton Baths is the only site being considered at this stage. The size of the enclosed area and costs are still under investigation.

Swan River stingray. Credit: Liam Kenny

Meanwhile a bull shark is also suspected of killing a half-eaten ray reeled in by a fisher last weekend.

Liam Kenny was enjoying a morning fish when he hooked a southern eagle ray, only realising when he got it to shore that it had huge bite marks taken out of it.

Graphic images of the decimated ray were shared online, where many guessed the amateur fisher had just split the catch with a bull shark, which are known to frequent local waters.

Speaking to 7NEWS.com.au Murdoch University’s Adrian Gleiss said “it’s very difficult to say but most likely is a bull shark”.

“I wouldn’t rule out a bronze whaler,” he said.

Based on the bite marks on the ray carcass, Dr Gleiss suggested the shark could have been up to 2m in length.

Murdoch University’s Adrian Gleiss. Credit: Supplied

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