NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Rescuers who rushed to help a 13-year-old boy bitten by a shark at Neptune Beach on Sunday afternoon returned to the beach on Memorial Day to talk about their rescue efforts.
“A couple of ladies brought this young kid up out of the water," John McCleary said. "They were carrying him and asking for help and my roommate got my attention. When I looked over, all I could see was his leg just dripping full of blood.”
McCleary said the boy was bleeding so profusely that three beach towels he grabbed were completely soaked. That's when another man offered his belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
McCleary says the women laid the teenager on his lounge chair so his leg could be elevated, then he went to work grabbing any tools he had around him to help before Ocean Rescue got to the scene.
Ocean Rescue was able to bandage up the boy and get the bleeding under control. He suffered severe lacerations and was taken to UF Health Jacksonville, where he was in stable condition.
Neptune Beach police said the boy was in the water with his father on a surfboard when the shark bit him on his right calf. Officials told News4Jax that based on the boy’s bite marks, they think the shark is about 5 feet long.
"The flesh wound, there was probably a good 4- of 5-inch chunk of soft tissue missing and it was all just white bone showing from his knee joint to mid-shin area," McCleary said.
McCleary's friend, Lyndse Costabile, also jumped into action to get help.
“(I) made the 911 call about 2:52 p.m., trying to get them to react and get them here, dispatch an ambulance as soon as possible, knowing that, you know, lifeguards are limited in what they are able to do," Costabile said.
Costabile says several other people, including a nurse, happened to be in the area, and also joined efforts to help the boy. Cellphone video shot of the rescue shows many people trying to help.
"It’s a team effort," Costabile said. "I think when you have the right people in place -- it’s right place, right time -- you can really pull together and help each other out."
McCleary said he has been in contact with the boy’s family, who say the boy made it through an 8-hour surgery Sunday night and he had another one Monday. They say it’s going to be a long recovery, but they are thankful for everyone’s help.
Officials closed the beach for about 45 minutes after the attack. This was the first shark bite in Neptune Beach at least 15 years. This was the third shark bite in northeast Florida beaches so far this year.
Ocean Rescue Capt. Richmond Banks said in all shark bite cases, the most important part to keep the bleeding under control to prevent shock. They use a tourniquet to control the bleeding.
"We will tighten it up as tight as we can get it, if there is an arterial bleed," Banks said.
Once the bleeding has slowed, they will put on a non-stick trauma dressing to help the blood clot. That's what they did for the boy Sunday.
Banks said lifeguards train for these types of scenarios, and training hours have increased because of the high numbers of people coming to the beach.
"We just actually (went) through a major trauma (training) on the beach on what we need to do, where people need to go and different things like that," Banks said. "I think it's important that you know, the guards have (gone through) as close possible (to) a real-life scenario situation that we throw them into."