Kylie’s Story

The family of a young woman who was attacked by a shark in Tonga contacted CareFlight International Air Ambulance to bring her home to Australia.

29-year-old Kylie, an experienced diver, surfer and photographer, had been working on the ship ICE for Tonga Blue, a wreck-hunting company. Tonga Blue was trying to uncover some of Tonga’s maritime history, while at the same time carrying out some conservation work. 

Kylie and a friend were swimming in deep water alongside their kayak when she was bitten. The captain of the vessel heard her cries for help and, because she was still conscious and talking, thought that her injuries were non life-threatening. However, when she was brought to the surface, it was evident that she had suffered major trauma to her thighs and buttocks.

Kylie was taken to the local Tongan hospital for surgery. The doctors who treated her thought that her attacker was probably a bull shark around three metres long, with teeth about 25 mm across and a 45 cm bite circumference.

While Kylie received excellent care in the Tongan hospital, the wounds became infected. The CareFlight medical team of Dr Sam Cho and nurse Lorraine Batko flew to Tonga to bring her back to Australia for further emergency surgery. She remained stable on the flight home, Lorraine commenting that she was remarkably calm considering the extent of her injury.

Kylie, who the ship’s captain refers to as “our mermaid”, has recovered well and is keen to resume her work in Tonga. An avid conservationist, she retains her love and respect for sharks.