Search teams are searching for the body of a beloved teacher who was brutally attacked by a shark while surfing Down Under.
Simon Baccanello, 46, was reportedly dragged underwater for over 15 minutes by the beast at Walkers Rock on South Australia’s west coast.
He disappeared on Saturday morning after being struck by fright while riding the waves at the popular beach.
The local teacher, who started work at Elliston Area School in January, is said to have been mugged 50 meters offshore.
Simon is said to have been surfing around 10am when he was suddenly mauled by a shark in front of horrified onlookers.
About 16 people, including a 13-year-old boy, were in the water watching the attack unfold just meters away.
Bystanders told how Simon valiantly warned others to swim back to shore while battling the beast.
Eyewitness Jaidan Millar, 22, said the shark pounced on the teacher several times as he desperately tried to fend it off.
He told that Adelaide Advertiser: “I saw his board tobstoning which means he is underwater and his board is being dragged under water as he tries to fight his way back to the surface.
“He was gone. (We) saw the shark wriggle around behind.
“The shark obviously let go and came back and caught him a third time. We all looked at each other and said, “What are we doing?”
“I yelled, ‘Call an ambulance,’ but I’m sure the guy on the beach was already on the phone trying to get the ambulance.”
“It was such a disturbing incident. There were 15 or 20 people out there today. It could have been anyone.”
It is feared Simon, who taught math, science and physical education, succumbed to his life-threatening injuries after being pulled underwater by the shark.
Officials conducted extensive searches of the area over the weekend and shockingly found a surfboard with a huge chunk of it on it.
A discovered piece of wetsuit material and small pieces of styrofoam are now to be examined forensically.
Rescuers resumed their hunt for Simon in what locals call “jaws territory” on Monday morning.
Superintendent Paul Bahr of South Africa Police in the Eyre and Western Local Service Area said they hoped to find more debris that would help reconstruct the incident.
He said ABC: “We will explore the beaches around Walkers Rock and look for any signs that may point to the incident.”
“We are in the process of preparing a report that will be submitted to the coroner.”
He said state emergency medical services, the state fire department, local police and volunteers assisted in the frantic search for Simon’s body.
Authorities are focusing on beach areas in the hope that “anything that is in the water will be washed ashore and not out to sea”.
The teacher’s family released a brief statement on Sunday thanking the community for their condolences.
They said they are “grateful for the support” and “cherish their privacy as they process this tragic loss.”
The 46-year-old only moved to the nearby town of Elliston to teach in January, but quickly became an admired member of the community.
Elliston Area School principal Chad Fleming told 7News, “I’ve known this guy for five months and I feel like we’ve been friends for ten years.”
“We’re all a little numb at the moment. He was just a real guy, a really dedicated teacher.”
After the shocking incident, tributes poured in on social media from locals and friends, who described him as “kind, caring and inspirational”.
One said: “RIP my brother, taken way too soon and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”
Another added: “He was just a good teacher for the kids. In a small town like this, everyone is affected.”
A third wrote: “He was one of a kind and had a heart of gold.”
South Australia Police confirmed the search was still ongoing and that members of the community and SES were involved.
Elliston is approximately 400 miles from Adelaide, where tourists often flock for its stunning beaches.
The area is known for the high number of shark attacks off the coast.