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Local surfer tells of frantic effort to save teenager Khai Cowley, who was fatally mauled by shark in South Australia

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A local surfer has described the frantic moments he tried to save a boy mauled by a shark on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

Khai Cowley, 15, died after he was attacked while surfing with his dad at Ethel Beach about 1.30pm on Thursday.

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The Year 9 student was on Friday remembered as a “kind and respectful kid” with a passion for surfing.

Paramedics attended the hard-to-reach beach, but Khai couldn’t be saved.

Khai Cowley was killed after being attacked by a shark in South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. Credit: Supplied

It’s understood he had suffered significant bites to his leg.

Local surfer Tim Philip did everything he could to help, standing on a cliff face when he saw the teenager in trouble.

“I started moving down toward the beach and I could see the dad on the rocks sort of yelling and his son swimming towards him,” Philip told 7NEWS.

He grabbed a stranger’s board and paddled out to Khai, who was unconscious.

He had to let go when the shark, suspected to be a great white, began circling him.

“Probably, I’d say (it was) four metres … a pretty big shark,” Philip said.

“Then it started to head back out to sea. I was in waist deep water and just made the decision to run back … chest deep at this point, grab him and managed to drag him back to shore, back to the people on the beach.

“It was just a matter of … I didn’t want to see his body out to sea, so did what I could.”

Khai was on a family holiday when the tragedy unfolded.

Friends of the keen surfer have posted tributes on social media, with one writing that the young teenager had “so much potential”.

“He will hold a place in everyone’s heart,” the family friend wrote.

Khai’s auntie Lauryn Barley, who has set up a fundraiser to help cover funeral costs, said the young teen had the “most beautiful soul (and was) taken from us too soon”.

The 15-year-old has been remembered as a keen surfer. Credit: Supplied

Barley wrote that Khai had been attacked by a white pointer, otherwise known as a great white shark.

“I’m here to try help raise funds for my sister Kate and brother Tim to cover the cost of the funeral service. Any donations will be most appreciated,” she wrote.

Surfing South Australia also posted a tribute online, describing Khai as a “happy, kind and respectful kid” who was “very much loved by his surfing peers”.

“After the devastating news that one of our Grom surfers, Khai, was involved in a fatal incident at Ethel Beach on December 28th we have been keeping Khai’s family and friends in our thoughts,” it said.

“Khai was very involved in our surfing community with his passion for surfing stemming from a family with deep surfing roots in SA.

“He will be greatly missed out in our community and on the water.”

Over $10,000 had been raised via the GoFundMe in a matter of hours.

The attack comes after a spate of serious shark bites in recent months, including the fatal attack of 55-year-old Tod Gendle at Granites Beach on the state’s West Coast in October.

His was the second shark death this year after 46-year-old teacher Simon Baccanello disappeared in May while surfing at Walkers Rock Beach, about 365km west of Adelaide.

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