John Bacon, USA TODAY
An award-winning short-film director was killed Wednesday in a bloody shark attack off New Zealand while police in a helicopter watched helplessly from above, local media are reporting.
Police Inspector Shawn Rutene said in a statement that the swimmer, identified by his family as Adam Strange, was about 220 yards offshore when the shark attacked.
A police helicopter flew over the scene as the man battled the shark, The New Zealand Herald reported. But by the time a police officer in a boat drew near, the victim was dead, the Herald said, citing a police source who declined identification while the investigation continued.
The officer fired up to 12 shots before the shark, apparently hit, released the body. "It rolled over and disappeared," Rutene said, estimating the shark was about 14 feet long.
The Herald said that up to three sharks, most likely great whites, had been feeding on fish and birds, and that the victim swam into the middle of them.
Pio Mose told the Herald that he watched the shark attack while fishing on nearby rocks. Mose said he saw the "huge" shark attack the victim, who was swimming alone from the bay back to the beach, about 50 yards from where Mose was standing.
Mose said the man struggled with the shark and it swam away - but quickly returned. He said three or four other sharks came to the area after the second attack.
"I yelled at him to swim to the rocks. There was blood everywhere," Mose told the Herald. "The water was red. It's pretty scary. ... All I was thinking was I wanted to jump in the water and help, but I didn't want to get attacked by a shark, too."
The body was later retrieved. Muriwai Beach near Auckland was closed after the fatal attack.
The family of Strange, 46, released a statement calling the married father of one "a glorious and great father, husband and friend." His website says his films, including Aphrodite's Farm, have been featured at numerous international festivals.
Shark expert Malcolm Francis told One News that based on the reports it is likely the attack was by a great white shark. Clinton Duffy, a shark expert with the Department of Conservation, said New Zealand is a hotspot for great white sharks, and other potentially lethal species also inhabit the waters.
Attacks are rare. Duffy estimated that only 12 to 14 people have been killed by sharks in New Zealand since record-keeping began in the 1830s.
Around the world, sharks attacked humans 80 times last year, and seven people were killed, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File. The death toll was lower than it was in 2011 but higher than the average of 4.4 from 2001 to 2010.
Contributing: Associated Press