A teenager who suffered serious injuries after being attacked by a shark while spearfishing off the Northern Territory coast was due to have further surgery overnight as medical staff work to save his arm.
Sean Whitcombe, 17, was spearfishing when he was attacked by up to 10 reef sharks in the Northern Territory Sunday morning.
The teenager was 40 kilometres offshore of Nhulunbuy in the Gulf of Carpentaria when the attack occurred.
His friends on the boat - including Aboriginal trainee nurse 'Chiko' - started first aid by wrapping clothes and towels around him as a tourniquet to reduce the profuse bleeding and trying to keep him calm.
A member of the group, Joseph Smith, told ABC they had to wait two hours for emergency services to arrive.
"If we hadn't had Chiko with us, it would have been a lot worse … it was unbelievable," he said.
The teenager was in about five metres of water and is believed to have been bitten on his arm and leg while coming to the surface after spearing a fish.
Mr Whitcombe told medical staff he had been mobbed by numerous sharks when he was airlifted 1,000km from Nhulunbuy to Darwin.
The main injuries were significant bites to his upper left arm that damaged blood vessels and could easily have killed him, given how much blood he lost.
Medical staff believe Whitcombe will likely survive and keep his injured arm but he was in a critical condition on Monday night following emergency surgery.
Top End Health surgical executive director Mahiban Thomas said he was confident Mr Whitcombe would survive and keep his arm but it was too early to tell what permanent damage there was.
"That is a very lucky young man who was exceptionally well supported by his friends who are to be commended for excellent work keeping him conscious and keeping his blood loss down," Dr Thomas told reporters.
"He certainly would've died if both the emergency response, intermediate response and final reaction from Royal Darwin Hospital had not been as polished as it was."
AAP with NITV Staff Writer