Jeffreys Bay
RIP Burgert

The name of the swimmer who was attacked and killed by a shark in Jeffreys Bay has been released.

74 year old JBay local Burgert van der Westhuizen was an experienced open water swimmer, who regularly swam along the coastline of Jeffreys Bay.

He was often seen training in the canals of Marina Martinique, mainly in the summer months.

Burgert had the respect of the open water swim community as he was capable of swimming 3 km in under an hour, despite his age and also completed the JBay Swim Challenge  in 2012.

This swim saw cold water sap the energy of the swimmers but Burgert was determined to finish and completed the 4 K distance in just under 2 hours, even though he staggered out of the water and had to be carried up the beach due to hyperthermia.

Ironically, the route of the JBay Swim Challenge went right past the site of yesterday’s shark attack on Burgert.

From eye witness accounts, Burgert was attacked by a shark 4 – 5 meters in length, just beyond the take off zone at Lower Point.

Once word of the attack had spread, family and friends of the JBay open water swimmers frantically started to find out who was swimming in the ocean yesterday morning.

Burgert’s vehicle was spotted near the BP Garage, where he normally parked when going for a swim. There was also just one person amongst the JBay swimmers who always wore a blue swim cap, which lead to the devastating knowledge that it must have been Burgert who had been attacked.

He had been watching the ocean while mowing the lawn at home and decided that he had to go swim in the perfect conditions yesterday.

The sea water was warm, there was hardly any swell and no wind – ideal for a nice long swim past the Jeffreys Bay surf breaks.

There was no indication that anything could have gone wrong when Burgert decided to go for a swim.

jbay-swim web

Although is it suspected that a Great White Shark was responsible for the attack, locals have found it strange that the shark continued to circle and bite the victim and did not swim off when it realised that it must have been a case of mistaken identity.

According to Terry Olivier, the surfer who bravely paddled out to try retrieve Burgert’s body, the shark took bites and then grabbed the torso and went underwater with it. To watch an interview with Terry, click here

When the NSRI arrived on the scene they managed to chase the shark off by buzzing it with the jet ski.

While the brutal nature of the shark attack has left the JBay surfers and swimmers reeling, friends and family can at least take some consolation that Burgert died doing what he loved the most.

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