Young Swimmer, 13, Badly Injured Off Southern California Beach
SAN DIEGO — October 1, 2018
A 13-year-old California swimmer was attacked over the weekend while free diving off Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas, outside San Diego. A kayaker who rushed to rescue the lad said the shark that attacked the teenager stalked the kayak rescuers used to save the boy.
Encinitas Lifeguard Captain Larry Giles told reporters the boy was airlifted to a local hospital, and that he was listed in stable condition. Chad Hammel, the kayaker who first saw the swimmer was in trouble, was lobster hunting with two friends when he heard shouts. At first, Hammel thought the ruckus was because someone was excited after catching a big lobster since it was the first day of the lobster-diving season.
Hammel told the local TV station, "But it kept going, and I realized he was yelling, 'I got bit!” The kayaker then swam over with friends and pulled the bitten teen into the kayak to tow him to shore. Hammel said, "His whole clavicle was ripped open. You could see the ball-and-socket joint, everything."
The injured boy’s family made a statement requesting privacy, and saying they deeply appreciated the outpouring of support for their son, according to Dr. Tim Fairbanks, a chief pediatric surgeon at the trauma surgery at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. Hospital officials say the boy should recover after the surgery to repair the damage done in the attack.
Hammel’s friends were off-duty first responders, and that they worked to slow the bleeding and to calm the stricken 13-year-old as they ferried him back to shore. According to their stories, the 11-foot shark that had bitten the victim actually trailed the kayak back to shore. All the while the badly injured lad was conscious, according to his rescuers.
Once Hammel and his comrades towed the stricken swimmer the 100 yards to shore, the youth was flown by chopper to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Bystanders told reporters at the scene that the teen was attacked in about 9 feet of water. First responders administered life support once the kayakers got the boy back to shore.
Lifeguard Captain Giles said a shark had been spotted some weeks previously, but that it would take further investigation to determine the predator’s species. Another attack off San Onofre Beach about 30 miles north of Encinitas left a female swimmer there badly injured back in 2017.
Lobster-diving opening day brings big crowds to this part of the California coast, and witnesses at the scene of the attack say there were dozens of swimmers in the water when this attack occurred. Officials closed Beacon and other beaches in the vicinity until Monday morning, canceling a surfing contest being held over the weekend.