Teenage boy bitten by shark at Hanna Park

Keanan Perry hospitalized after undergoing surgery on severed Achilles' tendon

By Jim Piggott - Reporter , Francesca Amiker - Reporter , Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 17-year-old Jacksonville boy was bitten on his heel by a shark Friday afternoon in waters off Hanna Park, according to Jacksonville Fire and Rescue.

Keanan Perry was hospitalized overnight and received 50 stitches after successful surgery on a severed Achilles' tendon. 

The Virginia Beach native was first taken about 1 p.m. to Baptist Beaches Hospital, where he detailed the encounter to News4Jax. 

"I didn't see anything at all. I had nothing on my mind about that. We had just seen dolphins. I had no fear at all, I was just doing my normal surfing like I do two to three times a week," Perry said. 

As he was surfing some really good waves at the north end of the park, near what's know as The Poles, Perry said something clamped down on his back heel and knew it was a shark.

"I was near the shore, away from everybody in a dead zone by myself, jumped off my board to see how deep it was. I was thinking about walking out. It was chest high, deeper than I expected. Right when my foot was hit, I didn't see anything. It just latched, then was gone right after," Perry said. "Right when it happened, there was so much pressure. I was, like, that's a shark bite. I could feel the teeth. It was very aggressive for a second. I hopped on my board and was trying to paddle in."

Perry and his friend were able to flag down a fisherman, who applied pressure to his wound for 10 minutes until paramedics arrived.

"He was in about 2 feet of water saying he'd been bit," said fisherman Kevin Rowland, who helped the teenager. "He turned to me and started yelling. He goes, I need help, i need help. Please help me!"

"I grabbed him, pulled him up here. My wife got a towel and we wrapped it around the ankle. It was about a 4-inch laceration on the right back part of the ankle. Didn't look like it had gotten to the tendon. Then one tooth mark in the bottom of the foot, about 3 inches," said Rowland.

Though he has a long road ahead to recover, Perry said he looks forward to getting back on his surfboard. 

"They (the paramedics) said, 'You definitely got a good bite. It's, like, a big, just, back of my heel, chunk gone. All around my foot is teeth marks," he said. "I'll definitely get back in, but I ain't going to put my feet in the water."

A Jacksonville native who was at the beach with her 8-year-old son when Perry came out of the water with his foot bleeding said she has never seen anything like this.

"It gave me reason to freak out a little bit, seeing that young kid come in with the shark bite on his ankle," Jojo Miller told News4Jax. "It scared me for sure."

This was the second report of a shark bite along northeast Florida beaches this week, and the second so far this year.

A woman paddling out to surf south of the St. Augustine Beach Pier on Wednesday was bitten on the foot. She was treated and released at Flagler Hospital. 

There have been several shark bites in waters off the beaches of Volusia and Brevard counties in the past two months, most of the causing minor injuries.

Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, associate professor of biology at the University of North Florida, told News4Jax that it's not a matter of staying out of the water, but being aware of where the sharks are.

"They do have the ability to sense potential pray into a shark," Gelsleichter said. "Sharks are not necessarily looking for human, but they often do exploratory bites to see if something is one of their prey items."

Though peak season is July and August, Gelsleichter said, around this time is when sharks will move up to estuaries and bays, and that's where they will stay the entire summer. 

"This is the time of year that you normally see the sharks that would either be offshore or down in the south start to make their way into more northerly areas. That would include of course our own area," he said.

George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File for the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida and a world-renowned shark expert, offered some ways swimmers can minimize shark bites.

There is some evidence that shows sharks may be attracted to tattoos, toenail polish, yellow or white bathing suits and shiny jewelry. Burgess also recommends against swimming in the ocean between dusk and dawn.

Burgess recommends getting out of the water if you ever see seagulls diving for fish or see a school of fish swimming nearby. Chances are something larger in the water is trying to feed on the fish.

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