EXCLUSIVE: Eerie twist in shark attack tragedy: How the teenage girl mauled to death in front of her mates once made headlines for her clever idea to stop the predators attacking swimmers
- Stella Berry, 16, died after a shark latched onto her leg
- Once designed an ocean pool to stop attacks at a beach
- Bystanders heard her scream after she jumped in the river
- Her parents remembered her as a ‘vibrant and happy girl’
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Stella Berry (pictured) died on Saturday
A teenage girl who was mauled to death by a shark once made headlines for her impressive design of an ocean pool that would stop the predators from attacking swimmers at a popular beach.
Stella Berry, 16, was with friends on the banks of the Swan River in North Fremantle on Saturday when she saw a pod of dolphins and jumped in the water about 3.30pm.
Moments later, bystanders heard a scream when a shark latched on to her leg.
Stella was pulled from the river with critical injuries and died on the scene, despite the frantic efforts of witnesses and paramedics.
It can now be revealed that Stella was featured in a local paper in 2017 for her design of a shark-free ocean pool for Perth’s Cottesloe Beach, as part of a school engineering project.
Great white sharks had been spotted at the beach, sparking the council to call for public submissions with ideas on keeping swimmers safe.
Stella, who was in Year 5 at St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls at the time, worked with one of her classmates to come up with a design for the ocean pool.
They were praised for their ingenuity by then-Cottesloe mayor Jo Dawkins.
Ms Dawkins told Perth Now she was impressed with the design because it allowed smaller fish to enter the pool, while keeping predatory creatures out.
‘[The students] addressed safety issues, accessibility issues, social issues, and they’ve done it so creatively.’
Stella Berry once impressed former Cottesloe mayor Jo Dawkins (pictured together with a model of her idea) for designing an ocean pool to stop sharks from attacking swimmers
Cottesloe Beach still does not have an ocean pool, but Ms Dawkins said at the time that Stella’s idea was so impressive it could have been used.
In a picture accompanying the article, Stella is seen smiling next to Ms Dawkins along with a model of her ocean pool.
The schoolgirl was also a talented hockey player and represented Western Australia in interstate competitions. She was selected to travel to Tasmania in 2019 to play for her state.
After her tragic death on Saturday, bystanders Luke Smith and Joshua Warwick described the moment they heard Stella scream in the water.
‘There was this big scream and then we see a girl just jump off and we see a few fins,’ Luke told 9News.
‘We saw the police running down the hill, and we thought maybe they were chasing someone and then we saw a girl on the ground getting resuscitated.’
Both teens had been swimming at the same spot 10 minutes earlier and said they were unsettled by the realisation they could’ve been attacked.
Stella Berry, 16, was mauled to death by a shark near Perth on Saturday. She jumped in a river to swim with a pod of dolphins
Luke Smith (left) and Joshua Warwick (right) relived the terrifying moment the attack unfolded along the Swan River in North Fremantle, at about 3.30pm on Saturday
Stella’s parents Matt and Sophie Berry, who are both teachers, said they were ‘devastated and deeply shocked’.
‘Stella was a vibrant and happy girl with plans of living in Europe after school,’ the couple wrote in a statement.
‘She was a caring person and was a dear friend to many, across a variety of schools in the area.
‘She had an infectious laugh which we couldn’t help laughing at too when we heard it.
‘She was a beautiful and loving big sister and the best daughter we could have hoped for.’
Stella’s sister on Sunday posted an emotional tribute on social media.
‘Thank you for your blessings. She was the best sister I could ever wish for, I would never change a thing about her,’ her TikTok post read.
One bystander described the scene of chaos that followed with emergency services trying their best to revive the mauled teenager (scene pictured)
Both Luke and Joshua had been swimming at the same spot 10 minutes earlier and said they were unsettled by the realisation they could’ve been attacked
A number of Stella’s friends gathered on the banks of the Swan River near the spot she was attacked, which has been turned into a makeshift memorial site.
Four teens stood arm-in-arm looking out at the water on Sunday before being joined by two more friends as the sounds of crying and wailing carried along the river .
Friend Lara Connolly said Stella was a gifted runner who wanted to compete in a marathon.
Stella was the ‘sweetest and smartest girl that I knew’, Lara told the ABC.
‘She never did anything wrong to anybody.’
‘She was so kind. She loved art. I’d ride my bike to see her sometimes and I’d see her running.’
Lara said she and another friend of Stella, Teagan McArthur, had vowed to run a marathon in honour of the 16-year-old.
Shenton College principal Michal Morgan said Stella’s death had caused ‘great sadness, sincere empathy and the deepest regret’.
‘I understand and respect that people respond to grief and loss in different ways, and that a loss such as this can trigger a broad range of emotional responses that are not always anticipated or evident,’ Mr Morgan told The West.
‘I have personally offered, on behalf of the College, our condolences and support to Stella’s family during this very sad time.’
Matt and Sophie Berry pay tribute to their daughter Stella
We are devastated and deeply shocked by the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella.
We want to acknowledge the amazing support we have received from our family, friends, authorities and the WA community.
Stella was a vibrant and happy girl with plans of living in Europe after school.
She was a caring person and was a dear friend to many, across a variety of schools in the area.
She had an infectious laugh which we couldn’t help laughing at too when we heard it. Our thoughts are with Stella’s many friends at this time.
Stella loved creating art and spending time with her friends, particularly at the river and beach. She had her skipper’s ticket and often took friends out on the river for a day of ‘scurfing’.
She was a beautiful and loving big sister and the best daughter we could have hoped for.
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