Special Report filed by AAf Correspondent: Scott Tingley
from St. Petersburg Times


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    A man who was shark's dinner -- almost

Sunday, September 3, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rick LePrevost has an unconventional take on the behavior of sharks.

He doesn't accept the theory that once sharks realize they have bitten a human, they will let go and swim away.

"What they do is bite you and maim you and circle you and wait until you're weak," LePrevost said referring to a fatal shark attack on St. Pete Beach on Wednesday. "Then they eat you. If that guy stayed in the water, that shark would have eaten him."

Being bitten five times by a 9-foot shark will give you strong opinions on the topic.

LePrevost, 41, a lieutenant and paramedic with the St. Petersburg Fire Department, survived a shark attack nine summers ago in Tampa Bay.

The death of 69-year-old Thadeus Kubinski from an apparent shark attack Wednesday brought back unwelcome memories for LePrevost, but it made him appreciate the fact that he and his children are alive.

In June 1991, LePrevost and his three children were swimming behind a friend's sailboat in 20 feet of water in Tampa Bay. They were hanging onto a rope tied to the stern, playing a game of "jump off the boat and swim to Daddy."

LePrevost felt something bump his leg.

Then something from underneath grabbed his left thigh and tried to pull him under. He felt no pain at first; it was more like a charley horse. He thinks that only his life vest kept the shark from pulling him beneath the surface.

"Soon as I felt it, I kicked away," he said. He hurled the children toward the boat, screaming at them to get out of the water.

LePrevost got his children aboard the boat before pulling himself up the metal ladder. Of all of the eerie, haunting moments that morning, the next few minutes are crystal clear in his mind.

"I got in the boat and lay on the deck," he said. "There was blood everywhere."

His blood flowed out drainage holes in the deck, into the bay.

"I was lying there on the deck, and I could just see over the side. I could see the shark just under the water, circling the boat."

To this day, LePrevost thinks the animal was waiting to finish off its prey -- him.

Fortunately, he and his sailing companion were both paramedics. They quickly diagnosed that no major arteries had been severed. They wrapped his wounds in a towel, sent the crying children below deck, and called the Coast Guard.

LePrevost remembers being bitten only twice. But a surgeon at Bayfront Medical Center later cataloged five distinct bites. The deepest one went 2 inches into his front left thigh.

The shark, thought to be a nine-foot bull shark or lemon shark, also bit his abdomen, left ankle, calf, and back thigh. LePrevost received 120 stitches.

Most shark attacks aren't nearly that bad. Most involve surfers between Daytona Beach and Miami who get mistaken for mullet and get nipped on the hand or foot.

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