Graphic: Jackson Bartlett

Coral Bay shark bite victim in safe hands of the RFDS

Date published

26 Aug 2021

New South Wales boy Jackson Bartlett, 10, was snorkeling off Coral Bay in WA’s North West with his dad in June when he noticed a large shadow moving fast towards him.

Graphic: JB

To his horror, the shadow making a beeline for him was a two-metre bronze whaler shark. 

Jackson was swimming 75 metres away from the shore at Five Fingers Reef when he was forced to face off with the shark. 

Jackson remembers mustering up as much courage as he could but the shark, more than twice his size, ultimately prevailed by biting deep into his right flipper. 

With a bleeding wound and feeling very frightened, Jackson was able to alert his dad who quickly dragged him to shore while calling out for help. 

As luck would have it, holidaying doctors and a local tour guide were on scene and were able to get Jackson into an ambulance. 

Graphic: Jackson Bartlett

The deep wound stretching from ankle to toe required Jackson to undergo surgery. 

With the closest major hospital located 1,120km away in Perth, the Royal Flying Doctor Service was tasked to respond. 

All RFDS aircraft are equipped with aeromedical equipment and supplies and are staff with pilots, emergency doctors and flight nurses who are highly trained to react and respond to trauma incidents. 

Parents Blake and Rachael Bartlett said when the RFDS landed in Coral Bay to retrieve Jackson, there was relief knowing their son would be in safe hands during the journey to Perth. 

On the way, RFDS crews were able to monitor Jackson's condition and manage his pain.

Graphic: Jackson Bartlett

Naturally, his encounter sparked national media interest and RFDS crews were thoroughly amused to hear him report on TV: "I liked going on the plane. When I was in the Royal Flying Doctor plane, I had a lot of snacks. 

I liked looking out the window and going through the clouds when we were higher."

After being discharged from Perth Children's Hospital, Jackson and his family visited the RFDS Jandakot base to express their gratitude and enjoy some behind-the-scenes action. 

Jackson, his parents, two brothers and grandmother were delighted to meet with crews while touring the aircraft hangars and the Statewide Coordination Centre where patients like himself are triaged, and aircraft and crews tasked. 

"Thanks to all the people who were helping me."

Jackson Bartlett, 10-year-old shark bite victim

Your donations help us be there for unexpected emergencies. With your support, patients like Jackson can be in the safe hands of the Flying Doctor when it matters most.