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ANIMAL ATTACK FILESAnimal Attack Files Special Report

Special Report Filed by AAF Correspondent: John Grooms

from The LA Times

Shark Brings an Early End to This Novaquatic's Swim
By MARTIN BECK, Times Staff Writer

September 16, 1999

The Tiger shark was closing fast but the swimmer had no idea. Rick Reeder was in the water between Lanai and Maui in Hawaii, finishing a relay leg in the nine-mile Maui Channel Swim this month. Reeder was 25 yards from the escort boat when the boat's captain saw the shark moving toward Reeder, about 75 yards behind. The captain ordered the boat put in reverse and Reeder's teammates from the Irvine Novaquatics Masters Team started waving at the swimmer. Reeder was still unaware. "I saw them waving their arms and my first thought was that they're waving to encourage me," Reeder said this week. "When I got close, I lifted my head up and I heard someone yell, 'Get in the boat now, shark.' I put my face back down in the water and started to swim to the boat as fast as I could." Reeder, a captain with the Orange County Fire Authority, didn't have much time to think. "It did cross my mind," he said, "that I hope he investigates me before he eats me." The shark--at an estimated 15 feet, more than twice as long as the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Reeder--caught up fast; Reeder reached the boat with little time to spare. "We all grabbed for Rick, his legs and arms and everything," said Novaquatics team captain Scott Zornig, "and just as we pulled his feet out of the water, the shark made a beeline for him and probably came within five feet of him." The shark continued to circle the boat for about 15 minutes. The Novaquatics tried by radio to warn the other 57 boats in the race about the aggressive shark, but many boats had their radios turned off, Zornig said, so the warnings went unheeded. They decided to pull out of the race and warn other teams in person. Fifteen boats pulled their swimmers out of the water, including one woman who saw the shark pass under her, Zornig said. The Novaquatics--Zornig of Rancho Santa Margarita, Reeder of Orange, Craig Taylor of Laguna Niguel, Dan Sullivan of Irvine, Tom Landis of Camp Sherman, Ore., and Jim Fitzpatrick of Laguna Niguel--stuck with their decision and motored to the finish line at Kaanapali Beach.

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