Fr. Liam Ryan has just received the impressive Australian Bravery Award for paddling out to sea and rescuing a surfer who was trying to fend off the attack of a five meter great white shark.
The event actually happened on July 31, 2020, when 28-year-old surfer Phil Mummert was 100 meters from shore in Bunker Bay, Western Australia. As providence would have it, Fr. Ryan was also in the area:
“I was holidaying down south with my best mate Jess Woolhouse and his family, and we decided to go for a quick surf at Bunker Bay,” the priestly hero sharedwith Cath News.
He went on to explain the shark attack in more detail:
“We had not been in the water long and were paddling back out to catch our second wave, when I noticed the dorsal fin of a five-metre great white shark surfacing next to a surfer. The shark lunged at the surfer, biting into his surfboard and lower leg, tipping the surfer into the water.”
Mummert was able to place half his bitten off board into the shark’s mouth and was left in fear as the huge shark continued to circle him. Thankfully Fr. Ryan, his friend and a further surfer, Alex Oliver, paddled out to help the injured surfer, and no doubt with a little divine intervention, Mummert was rescued.
“Phil was very lucky; we later found out that the shark just missed his main artery. You might call that luck but I like to think it was providence,” shared the surfer priest.
Fr. Ryan, a chaplain at St John of God Midland Public Hospital, was delighted with the award, but explained he was only acting on instinct (although we think he was just naturally following the instructions of his Big Boss Upstairs).
To top off the whole event, the rescue has also led to a new friendship, with Fr. Ryan and Mummert becoming close friends and still catching up regularly two years later.
We share in the gratitude for the positive outcome for Mummet, and also pretty impressed at the idea of the dashing priest catching a second wave!