London businessman attacked by shark while snorkelling in the Galapagos Islands

A London businessman today described how he is lucky to be alive after being attacked by a shark while snorkelling in the Galápagos Islands.

Andrew Newman, 45, suffered a broken bone and three severed ligaments after the “four-metre long” beast sunk its teeth into his right foot off the coast of Santa Fe.

The Dulwich-based advertising boss – who was holding his GoPro camera at the time – managed to release his foot by repeatedly punching the shark in the face.

But he then faced a three-hour boat journey to the nearest hospital as fellow passengers – including a London doctor – battled to stem the bleeding.

Alex Newman told of this terror

Mr Newman had travelled to the Galápagos Islands, the Ecuadorian archipelago famous for Charles Darwin’s wildlife studies, to “find my faith in life again through nature” after the sudden death of his husband Damon in 2016.

Speaking for the first time from the islands, he described how the image of “being face to face with a shark” would never leave him.

He told the Standard: “When I close my eyes, all I can see is the shark’s white eye and my foot in his mouth.

“What I ultimately found was how precious my life is and how happy I am to be alive.”

Mr Newman was on his final snorkelling excursion, approaching a sea lion on a rock, when he felt “a huge force” clamp around his leg. 

Dr Kathryn Gilbery, 27, helped stem Mr Newman’s blood flow

He initially thought it was one of his friends playing a “practical joke” but turned around to see the shark’s teeth sunk into his foot. 

“His eyes were no more than a meter away from me – this massive shark head with white eyes,” he said. “We were just staring at each-other with his whole foot in my mouth. He wouldn’t let go.”

Mr Newman – who says he has frequently practised his response to an attack due to a “wretched fear” of sharks – said he felt no pain and immediately went into survival mode.

“I punched him, Go Pro in hand, harder and harder until he let go,” he said. “I just went into automatic mode.”

Knowing the shark could return, one of Mr Newman’s fellow travellers Audrey Lag pushed him onto the rocks, ordering him to keep his foot out of the water.

“Half of my foot looked like it was hanging off,” he said. “I didn’t feel any pain when I saw my bones and tendons.. I could just see the blood pumping.”

Mr Newman, who co-founded advertising agency in 2013, was rescued from the rock by a dinghy – only to learn he faced a three hour boat journey to the nearest hospital.

To allay fears of “dying from blood loss”, he self-medicated with “some painkillers, a couple of shots of tequila and a mojito” while fellow passengers tried stem the wound’s blood flow using towels.

“It was the longest three hours of my life,” he said.

Mr Newman was attacked by a shark (Alamy Stock Photo)

One of the travellers was British doctor Kathryn Gilbert, 27, who previously worked in the A&E department at St Georges Hospital in Tooting.

She said: “It was quite the experience, as unsurprisingly I’ve never dealt with a shark bite working in the UK.

“I just found some strong painkillers and tried to stop the bleeding which we eventually managed with a bandage and a lot of towels.”

After arriving on the island of San Cristobal, Mr Newman, who was one of the first couples in the UK to have a civil partnership, underwent surgery to reattach the severed ligaments in his foot.

He is due to fly back tomorrow to the UK, where he will need to undergo further treatment.

Andrew Newman being taken from the boat (Alex Newman)

Ms Lag, 31, an engineer in agronomy, said: “I saw a shark passing close to Andy, but didn’t get it had bitten him at first. Then I saw him going up with his foot bleeding and shouting for help and shark. 

“Then I looked back down in the water and saw a big galapagos shark right underneath me.

“I swam towards Andy closer to the rocks and pushed him more out of the water as well as myself.”

Ms Lag, who grew up in South Africa and previously worked in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast, added: “I was afraid they would be two or three more coming for us if he didn’t get his foot to bleed somewhere else.”

Mr Newman’s GoPro was lost in the attack, although he said divers had returned to the cove to try to retrieve it. 

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There have been only eight shark attacks in Ecuadorian waters since records began in 1954, according to the website Shark Attack Data.

Writer and underwater shark photographer Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch said the shark could have been a “huge” Galapagos shark, a species named after the archipelago. 

Describing shark attacks as “unbelievably rare”, Mr Stafford-Deitsch added: “You think of all the billions of people in the water and the number of times people encounter sharks. We’re not on the menu most of the time.”

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