AUCKLAND – An award-winning filmmaker was killed in a shark attack on Wednesday at a popular surfing beach west of New Zealand’s largest city.

Adam Strange, 46, whose short film won the Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, was swimming alone 200 meters offshore from Muriwai Beach, near Auckland, when he was attacked by a four-meter-long shark – believed to be a great white – according to Stuff news website.

Fisherman Pio Moses told Stuff: "All of a sudden... we saw the shark fin and next minute, boom, attack him then blood every where on the water.” Moses called emergency services while his friend ran for help. "I yelled at him to swim to the rocks. There was blood everywhere. The water was red. It's pretty scary," said Moses.

Around 200 people were on the beach, and people quickly ran, said Auckland Now. "Everybody was evacuated from the water. Word of mouth, 'shark', and everybody left the water,” said student Stef McCallum.

An Eagle helicopter was quickly dispatched to the area, with police officers shooting at the shark, said the New Zealand Herald. A police officer was also able to fire around 20 shots from a lifeguard boat. The shark was hit, but managed to swim away. 

TV3 reported that as many as four sharks may have been involved in the attacks, and that neighboring beaches had been closed. Helicopters will patrol the area and lifeguards will have a strong presence, said Auckland Now.

Shark attacks are very rare – there have been only 14 recorded fatal shark attacks in New Zealand since 1837. There are around two non-deadly attacks a year.