BOCA RATON, Fla. » It was an alarming sight for beachgoers when a woman walked out of the water with a shark biting a meaty portion of her right forearm.
And no matter what she did, the 2-foot nurse shark refused to release its bite. Even when it died.
Paramedics ultimately took the woman — with the dead shark still attached to her arm — to Boca Raton Regional Hospital this afternoon, according to Boca Raton Ocean Rescue.
The woman was stable, officials said.
“The shark wouldn’t give up,” said Shlomo Jacob, of Boca Raton, among the beachgoers who looked on. “It was barely breathing but it wasn’t letting go of her arm, like it was stuck to her or something.”
Ocean Rescue Capt. Clint Tracy saw the woman and the shark as they were put into an ambulance at Red Reef Park about 1:30 p.m. “I have never seen anything like it,” Tracy said. “Never even heard of anything like this.”
Beachgoers said one or more people were antagonizing the shark in the water, and the woman was there, too. Tracy, the Ocean Rescue captain, said he didn’t know how the woman came in contact with it.
It was about 1:20 p.m. when the woman, in a turquoise-colored two-piece, appeared near Lifeguard Station No. 8, with the shark attached to her.
The woman remained calm, and there was little blood, Tracy said.
A male companion was by the woman’s side holding the shark, but as the minutes passed and the crowd grew, she became unsettled. When paramedics arrived, they gave her oxygen, witnesses said.
A splint board was used to support the woman’s arm and the shark as she was placed on the stretcher to take her to the hospital, Tracy said.
The woman’s name wasn’t released.
Lifeguard Dylan Narcowich was on duty in Tower No. 8 and responded. He said he previously had seen the woman and her companion swimming near a submerged rock pile about 60 feet from shore.
“There’s a rock pile where she was at and there are two more over there where they kind of hang out,” said Narcowich, referring to the sharks that occasionally swim near the submerged formations.
Nurse sharks are common in offshore Florida waters and can grow up to 14 feet long.
They are able to breathe while remaining still by pumping water through their mouths and out their gills, and are sometimes seen stationary on the ocean floor, according to researchers.
They are also known for having strong jaws filled with thousands of tiny, serrated teeth.
“Knowingly or not, people swim near nurse sharks every day without incident,” according to the National Park Service. “Attacks on humans are rare but not unknown and a clamping bite typically results from a diver or fisherman antagonizing the shark with hook, spear, net or hand.
“The bite reflex is such that it may be some minutes before a quietly re-immersed nurse shark will relax and release its tormentor,” according to a National Park Service brochure prepared for visitors to Florida waters. “The small teeth seldom penetrate deeply but are razor sharp.
“Holding still reduces damage to both shark and man. Leaving sharks alone is the best tactic.”
©2016 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)