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How a shark exploded and killed two people aboard a boat in Cornwall – Daily News

September 11, 2019


  It is a story stranger than fiction – but this bizarre tale tells of how two people died when a shark exploded near the boat they were on   Cornwall Live has revisited the almost unbelievable and terrifying story, which happened more than 60 years ago  Details of the incident were recounted to a Coroner’s Court inquest in Falmouth shortly after the affair in August 1956  At the time – at the height of the Cold War – some locals even suspected the navy was conducting top secret tests with explosives   The inquest heard how Leslie Nye, 46, of Porthallow on the Lizard peninsula and Richard Kirby, 30, of Ashton near Helston were killed when the shark exploded underneath their boat Two other men were injured.  Moments earlier, the men had seen the shark swimming towards them with a rope carrying two explosive charges straddled across its back  It was a cruel twist of fate – as they had themselves thrown the explosives at the creature in an attempt to kill or scare it away  The West Briton newspaper published details of the inquest. Lieutenant Commander J Bailey, of HMS Burleigh, described how navy divers were on an operation supported by a local fishing boat over The Manacles reef near Porthkerris Point on the Lizard peninsula  The inquest heard that on the day before the tragedy, Lieutenant Commander Joseph Brooks saw a shark approach which he perceived was dangerous He said it was not a basking shark (it was most probably a porbeagle).  Lieutenant Commander Brooks, who had experience of sharks off America, said he saw this shark begin to swim towards a man in the water He said it turned on its side and feared it was getting its mouth in a position to attack  However, the shark was frightened away by bubbles from one of the divers, the inquest was told  The following day, as two divers were putting on their gear, a shark started circling the fishing boat  Fearing a repeat on the day before, Lieutenant Commander Bailey said Brooks “sensed their anxiety about making another dip” and it was decided they would attempt to scare away or kill the shark  He said: “I think in Commander Brooks’ mind was a strong feeling that the shark had nearly got one of his men the day before and he was also most concerned about the safety of his divers ”  Lieutenant Commander Brooks along with Petty Officer L Spicer joined Mr Nye and Mr Kirby in the fishing boat’s dinghy, armed with a pair of 14oz explosive charges  They fastened the explosives to a rope and – with a deft throw – managed to wrap the rope around the shark’s fin  Lieutenant Commander Bailey said: “It was a very good shot. The line linking the two charges straddled the shark and caught round either its dorsal fin or its tail, so that they were hanging either side of the shark with fuses burning  The boat started to turn away from the shark but the shark turned round, made for the boat and was underneath when the two charges exploded ”  All four were blown into the water as pieces of the boat flew into the air from the double explosion  The two men died while Commander Brooks and Petty Officer Spice were seriously injured  The Coroner, Mr L J Carlyon, recorded a verdict of misadventure.  Speaking about the incident in 2007 to the West Briton, Ronald Curnow from nearby St Keverne said he remembered hearing of the tragedy  He said: “I was in school and we had never heard an explosion like it. It was so bad we all rushed out of the classroom and down to the beach  “My father was an ambulance man and went to the beach, but he couldn’t do anything for Leslie, who he knew  “It was during the Cold War and the feeling around here was that they were testing top secret explosives and the shark story was used as a cover-up ”

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