A swimmer who was attacked by a shark off Pacific Grove Beach about a mile west of the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Wednesday morning says he was bitten so badly he feared he might bleed out and that he owes his life to the good Samaritans who rushed to him. save.
“The shark bite was unsuccessful. But after that, I just got so lucky,” Steve Brummer, 62, said in a statement released Thursday night to KION and KSBW, local television stations based in Salinas.
Brummer, a Monterey resident, is in a hospital at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. He retired last year as an IT professional and computer science instructor at Monterey Peninsula College and regularly swims off the Pacific Grove shoreline with the open ocean swimming club Kelp Crawlers. But on Wednesday he swam alone.
“The day was so quiet and warm and the beach was crowded,” the statement said. “There were no waves, no chop. So people can hear me screaming “Help!” from a long distance, including from the Rec Trail, where someone called 911.”
According to witnesses, Brummer was bitten several times around 10:35 a.m., resulting in serious injuries to his legs and torso.
Scientists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory in Sacramento confirmed late Thursday that the shark that attacked Brummer while he was swimming off Lavers Point was a great white shark.
DNA samples from Brummer’s wetsuit were used to identify the shark species. Researchers at the lab are now trying to determine the shark’s size based on the size and orientation of the bite marks on his wetsuit, said Jordan Traverso, a department spokesman.
Moments after the attack on Brummer, bleeding profusely and screaming for help, several nearby people rushed to his aid, including Amy Jones, a Folsom nurse, and her husband, Paul Bandy, an off-duty Sacramento police officer, who were kayaking. area as part of a trip to celebrate a wedding anniversary. Surfer Heath Braddock came to the rescue.
“At the beach, a surfer was conducting safety classes. He was smart enough to go into the water on his board and take an extra board with him. These three (Braddock, Jones and Bandy) put me on an extra board and they made me hold the surfer’s ankle while he rowed like crazy to get me to the beach. They, along with several bystanders, including a doctor and a nurse, who were on the beach during the day, helped put the tourniquets on me and take me to the ambulance.”
The beaches around Lovers Point remain closed until Saturday.
As he lay in the ambulance, Brummer tried to figure out his chances of survival.
“I thought, ‘My lungs are fine. I can breathe,” Brummer said. “So I didn’t know if I would bleed to death, but my lungs were fine. And I was very lucky that the shark ended up in a place where I could survive. I was in the ambulance thinking I didn’t know if I would make it, but at least I could breathe. Then I don’t remember anything for a while.
“The ambulance told me: “We are about two minutes from the Natividad Medical Center. When you get there, you will be met by 15 people there. They will poke, prod and ask questions.”
Shark attacks are rare. Since 1950, when modern records began, 15 people have died in California from shark attacks, mostly white sharks, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Experts say that millions of people enter the water every year to surf, swim, kayak, spearfish and snorkel, making the chance of attack extremely low.
In May 2020, 26-year-old surfer Ben Kelly of Santa Cruz was killed in a shark attack about 100 yards from Manresa State Beach in Aptos. Kelly bled to death after being bitten by a great white shark on his right knee, grazing an artery. An investigation by state wildlife biologists found that the shark was at least 10 feet long.
A study published last year concluded that the number of great white sharks has increased in Monterey Bay.
The study found that juvenile great white sharks, younger animals 5 to 9 feet long that traditionally concentrate in warm waters off northern Mexico and southern California, have moved north since 2014 as water temperatures have warmed.
Young sharks stay close to the shore, feeding on squid and other animals. As they get bigger, they move to deeper and colder waters. Although young great whites can sometimes be seen in aerial photographs near beaches and even near people, they almost never bite people.
“These are very rare occurrences, especially in this part of the forest,” said Chris Lowe, a marine biologist at California State University, Long Beach. “Most adults live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We don’t know the details of how big this shark was, but judging by the time of year, it could have been a large juvenile.”
The Natividad Medical Center has a trauma center where Brummer underwent a two-hour operation.
“They said I lost a huge amount of blood,” he said. “If all this stuff wasn’t going right — if it was a choppy day, they wouldn’t have heard me on the Monterey Trail. So yes, I’m lucky. If all these things didn’t go right, I might bleed to death.”
One of the surgeons, Dr. Nicholas Rottler, told KSBW and KION that the shark did not cut any major arteries, and that he and another surgeon, Dr. Quong Ngann, were mainly treating large lacerations. Rottler noted that Brummer was left with an instructive reminder of the harrowing encounter: a U-shaped bite mark around his pelvis.
He said the shark bite occurred within a millimeter of a major artery, which could have been fatal. Brummer is in stable condition and talking. He’s got “hundreds of stitches” and will likely need months of physical therapy, Rottler. said KSBV.
“It could have been much, much worse,” Rottler said.