TOP SECRET ANIMAL ATTACK FILES
Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: Bill May
from The News-Press, Florida
|Shark attacks Bonita
Saturday, November 18, 2000
By SHARON TURCO, The News-Press
A shark attacked a British tourist as the man swam in about five feet of water off Bonita Beach early Friday afternoon.
As the shark bit down on 73-year-old Colin Shadforth, the swimmer repeatedly kicked at the beast before finally freeing his leg with a forceful clout to his attacker’s head.
“It was a hell of a pain, and it didn’t stop,” Shadforth said about two hours later. “I was kicking and kicking.
“It clamped down on me and wouldn’t let go,” said Shadforth, demonstrating the attack by grasping the rail of his bed in the Lee Memorial Hospital emergency room, where he was flown after the 1:17 p.m. attack near Dolphin Way condominiums on Hickory Boulevard.
The shark bit Shadforth, of Lincolnshire, England, on the right leg, said Dr. William Burkey, a doctor at Lee Memorial Hospital.
Shadforth suffered at least 30 wounds to his right calf that required more than 100 stitches, Burkey said.
“It was definitely a shark bite,” Burkey said. “It was a classic picture of what one looks like.”
The shark narrowly missed puncturing major arteries.
Shadforth tried to get a look at his attacker, but the murky water only allowed him to see what he described as a 4- to 5-foot fish.
After a short struggle, Shadforth said he put all his might behind one good kick.
“It worked,” said Shadforth, who exercises daily and has been coming to Bonita Springs for 23 years.
During that time, he said he’s never been warned or worried about sharks.
Normally a good swimmer, Shadforth was only able to paddle to shore, where he screamed for help.
“Blood was gushing out of my leg in spurts,” said Shadforth, a retired general practitioner.
Shadforth’s wife, Margaret, was inside their Dolphin Way condominium when she heard him.
“When I looked out, I saw the panic and went to see what was going on,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw my husband was bleeding.”
Firefighter-paramedic Bill Richardson was one of the first rescuers on the scene and said he counted three to four severe puncture wounds and a three- to four-inch tear to Shadforth’s calf muscle. “Mostly when we get called out there, it’s for a stingray, but this was definitely not the work of a stingray,” Richardson said.
People on the beach were unsure of what was happening, but they were quick to offer help, Shadforth said.
When paramedics arrived, Shadforth was sitting in a chair, his leg wrapped in a towel.
Joan McGrath, 42, a vacationer from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., said she wasn’t sure what bit Shadforth.
“There was blood all over,” McGrath said.
Joyce McQuade, 58, of Bonita Beach, said no matter what bit Shadforth, she wasn’t going back in the water.
Bob Hueter, director of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research in Sarasota, said it is very likely that it was a shark that bit Shadforth.
“If it was 4 or 5 feet long, I bet you it was one of the smaller sharks we see along our beaches, possibly a sharpnose, maybe a small blacktip,” Hueter said. “They’re moving south right now, to Florida Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands, so it sounds plausible.”
He added that small sharks eat and run and that there have been more bites in the waters off Southwest Florida.
“They’re never fatal, but they’re always kind of nasty,” Hueter said.
George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, agreed with Hueter.
“It sounds like a shark,” he said. “There aren’t many 4- to 5-foot fish that will grab a human being. The size alone would indicate it’s a shark,” he said.
Burgess didn’t think Shadforth was the shark’s target.
“More than likely, it was going after the splashing that it thought was from a normal prey item, grabbed on, and let go. It decided, ‘That’s not what I’m after,’ and was gone.”
Tourism officials said Friday they don’t know what impact the publicity will have on visitors.
Do tourists panic when they hear of shark attacks in Florida?
If they do, the Lee Island Coast Visitor & Convention Bureau doesn’t usually hear about it, said spokeswoman Nancy Hamilton.
Hotels do their part to warn visitors of potential dangers involving wildlife, she said. For example, some post signs telling guests to shuffle their feet in the water so they don’t tread on stingrays.
Burgess said people should be cautious, but not fear the water.
“There are very few circumstances where we want people to get into that mind-set,” he said. “The reality is that these things occasionally grab somebody. These are isolated incidents. The odds of its happening soon, particularly the same shark, are very slim.”
Shadforth was released from the emergency room without being admitted to the hospital.
Shadforth, who walks five miles then swims about another half mile everyday, said the attack won’t stop him from going back in the water.
“I might not be able to swim for a little while because of the bandages,” he said. “But I’m not going to let this shark scare me out of the water.”
Copyright 2000, The News-Press.
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