Mick Fanning shark attack: Surfer's mother 'terrified' she was going to watch son die on live TV

Fanning's older brother was killed in a car crash 17 years ago

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The mother of a professional surfer who survived a shark attack during a competition in South Africa thought she was going to watch her son die on live television.

Mick Fanning fought the shark off in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, in dramatic scenes as spectators watched on helpless from the shore on Sunday.

The Australian three-time world champion escaped unharmed but his mother, Elizabeth Osborne, had to suffer watching him fighting for his life.

“I was absolutely terrified. I went over to the television almost as though I could pull him out,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

“I just wanted to save him but there was nothing I could do... I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought we'd lost him.”

Fanning, nicknamed White Lightning, was knocked off his board after the shark came up behind him and was seen thrashing around in the water before being hidden from sight by a large wave.

His mother had already lost Fanning’s brother, Sean, in a car accident 17 years ago and feared her other son would die.

“When Sean was killed in the car accident, I didn't see it,” Ms Osborne said.

“I saw this just in front of me. It was just terrible.”

Fanning, 34, told how he punched the shark in the back after it surfaced behind him.

“I was just sitting there and I felt something get stuck in my leg rope, and I instantly jumped away and it kept coming at my board,” he said after being rescued.

“I was kicking and screaming. I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth.”

The J-Bay Open was cancelled after the incident because of the risk of further attacks, the World Surf League (WSL) announced, resulting in the prize being split between Fanning and fellow finalist Julian Wilson.

“Mick's composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic,” a spokesperson for the WSL said.

“The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL and, after discussions with both finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of competition at the J-Bay Open.”

Sharks are common in the area and a swimmer was killed by a great white in Jeffreys Bay in 2013.