updated 4/8/2008 4:06:47 AM ET 2008-04-08T08:06:47

A shark attacked and killed a teenage boy Tuesday while he and a friend were bodyboarding off Australia’s eastern coast, officials said.

The 16-year-old was yards from shore when the shark attacked around 8 a.m., lifeguard spokesman Stephen Leahy said. Police said the boy’s friend was already out of the water when he looked back and saw his friend “in distress” and swam back to bring his friend to the beach.

The victim suffered two large bites, one to the leg and one to the body. He died of extreme blood loss while lifeguards and paramedics tried to save him.

“We had multiple paramedics en route to the scene as well as the rescue helicopter,” New South Wales Ambulance spokeswoman Penelope Little told Sky News television. “But, tragically, the young boy has died at the scene.”

All nearby beaches were closed as a precaution and crews looked for the shark waters off Ballina, about 400 miles north of Sydney, Leahy said.

Heavy rainfall over the past two days had made the area more susceptible to attacks, because sharks congregate near river mouths to feed in rainy weather. The beach where the attack occurred is just north of the Richmond River estuary.

Bull sharks had been spotted in area
It wasn’t known what type of shark attacked the teenager, though residents said bull sharks had been spotted in recent days.

Detective Inspector Steve Clark said the victim’s friend would be considered for a bravery medal for going back into the water to rescue his friend despite seeing the shark nearby.

There are about 15 shark attacks a year in Australian waters — one of the highest rates in the world — but on average just over one attack per year is fatal.

In January, a fisherman survived a bite by a shark he had reeled onto his boat deck. In December, a surfer was attacked by a shark at a beach north of Sydney, but his injuries were not life-threatening.

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