Harrowing near-miss attack by tiger shark teaches twins a lesson they’ll never forget

One of the brothers, donning a flimsy birdcage over his head, is lunged at by hooked shark and narrowly avoids injury; 'I thought I was a goner'

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Shaun Harrington tries to get back on the boat after close call with a tiger shark. Credit: Supplied

An amazing thing about sharks is that they haven’t killed more people, and by people we refer to those who tempt fate by purposely swimming with the largest and most notorious of apex predators.

Of course, some people are more cautious than others and attempt this in somewhat of a controlled environment.

Then there are the Harrington twins, Shaun and Dean, who were taught an important lesson last week after a harrowing cage-diving stunt that involved a large tiger shark and a near-miss attack off Australia’s Gold Coast. (Note: Video shows dramatic close call but contains brief profanity.)

Cage diving generally ensures a controlled and reasonably safe environment. But the cage Shaun Harrington used was a $50 birdcage he placed over his head before jumping overboard.

And the 10-foot shark was not in the mood for pranks because it had just been hooked by a fisherman on the boat as part of a stunt performed by the twins, who apparently like to joke around.

The excursion began as a “B-grade shark-fishing tour,” but Dean unveiled the birdcage and his idea for the prank, and Shaun swallowed the idea, hook, line, and sinker.

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Shaun Harrington before the close call with the tiger shark. Credit: Supplied

“He pulled out the birdcage and told me, ‘This is the cage we’re going to use and we’re going out there to find a shark,”’ Shaun told News.com.au. “I said ‘no way!’ But we were out there and the first line our mate pulled up had an 8-foot tiger shark on it still thrashing around.” (The tiger shark is listed as 10 feet in the video.)

That was when Shaun jumped in with the birdcage. Dean also went overboard, but the shark seemed more interested in his brother.

It lunged toward Shaun, inspiring a panicked dash toward the stern of the boat. The shark made another pass before the diver was able to hoist himself aboard.

“I was flailing around like crazy to get back on the boat before it sunk its teeth into me,” he said.

Tiger sharks have been implicated in many attacks on humans, including several recent attacks off the Hawaiian island of Maui. Those attacks are believed to be cases of mistaken identity, with surfers or swimmers appear as large turtles or other prey while silhouetted against the surface.

Scuba divers, however, are able to swim with tiger sharks without incident in most cases at destinations, such as the Bahamas, where sharks are lured in by fish and chum and customers photograph the predators from stationary points on the sea floor.

But a hooked shark is an angry shark, trying to end its struggle by any means necessary.

The Harringtons seem to realize that now.

“It was heavy. I thought I was a goner,” Shaun said. “We surf every day and never really see any sharks, but we definitely won’t be doing anything as stupid as this again. My girlfriend said, ‘No more--no more sharks!’

It remains unclear what became of the 10-foot tiger shark--whether it was kept or set free.

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