Vero Beach shark bite victim Karin Stei overwhelmed by all the help, according to her brother

VERO BEACH — When a shark held Karin Stei's upper thigh in its teeth on Wednesday, she expected to die, her brother said.

Red blood, from a severed artery, quickly colored the clouded ocean water 30 yards north of Humiston Park.

She screamed "shark".

But the 47-year-old German vacationer leaned back and began backstroking to flee — aiding in her successful rescue.

On Friday, she remained in intensive care at Fort Pierce's Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute following surgery to stabilize her large wound. She can feel her toes and is hopeful her leg can be saved — but only the coming days and weeks will tell, her brother, Peter Stei, said during a phone interview from Germany on Thursday.

She is under medication and isn't ready to speak publicly. She had seen the extent of her wound. "She lost muscle. The shark took it away," the brother said.

"But Karin told me she is overwhelmed by all the help" she received from the time of her rescue to her ongoing medical care, he said.

The first to intervene was Vero Beach lifeguard Erik Toomsoo, 43. "She had minutes" to live, said Toomsoo, who swam 30 yards to aid her after running 50 yards through the sand. Sensing the urgency, he didn't take time to grab the regular rescue gear and plunged head first into the blood-scented water.

The brother termed Toomsoo's action's heroic.

She's a normal swimmer, not an athlete, her brother said. Her toughness is mental, he said. She works for a small newspaper on Lake Constance in southwest Germany.

When Toomsoo grabbed her, her leg came up, showing how seriously she was injured. Still, she was amazingly calm," the lifeguard said. On shore she answered questions being asked by off-duty lifeguard Shanna Beard, who also is a registered nurse, who happened to be at the beach.

Toomsoo and other lifeguards stuffed towels into the wound to control the bleeding. Paramedics took over and loaded her into a Martin County Fire Rescue Lifestar helicopter that happened to by flying by and saw trouble on the beach..

"She had the worst of luck and best of luck," Toomsoo said.

From what Stei has told her brother, "She has been getting really premium care," he said. His sister was touched by a nurse who kept checking on her throughout the night at the hospital.

The shark attack occurred a week into Stei's visit to Vero Beach with a friend, Brigitte Schmid, also of Germany. They have been staying with a Vero Beach resident. Neither Schmid nor the Vero Beach friend could be reached for comment.

According to police, Stei was approximately 30 yards from the shore and Schmid was approximately 20 to 25 yards from the shore when Stei was bitten.

There had been no obvious signs of sharks, lifeguards said. The yellow flag warning at nearby Humiston Beach Park was for rough surf at the shoreline.

"It was calm," Toomsoo said. Then came the scream for help.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments