A 22-year-old Tampa woman is recovering from a bull shark attack that occurred in Tampa Bay.
Krystal MaGee said she and other families launched a sailboat out a marina in downtown St. Petersburg May 21 and sailed about 3 miles offshore when they decided to jump in for a swim.
MaGee estimates the water was about 19 feet deep.
She had family members around her on paddle boards when she was bitten the first time on her toes.
"It came up from under and bit," said MaGee.
The bull shark bit her a second time in the ankle.
"I didn't think it was a shark at first, and then I realized something bit me, and I started screaming," MaGee recalled.
According to MaGee, her brother-in-law scooped her up and put her on a buoy. Her sister jumped into the water to help get her back to the boats and that's when MaGee's parents then pulled her back on to the boat.
MaGee said her father applied pressure to the wound while other family members radioed the U.S. Coast Guard.
A rescue helicopter was dispatched, but MaGee was towed to shore before the helicopter arrived. She was later taken by ambulance to Bayfront Hospital.
Doctors initially sewed her wounds up with 27 stitches. She had surgery three days later.
"They had to repair two tendons that move your foot and then the muscle on the bottom of my foot," MaGee explained.
She now has 20 stitches on the outside of her foot along with 10 staples. Doctors also used 15 stitches on the interior tendons and muscles.
Doctors at the hospital determined it was a shark attack based on the jaw marks left behind, MaGee said.
MaGee's family recalls seeing a 4- to 5-foot shadow in the water following the attack. The water was too murky to determine what was swimming alongside them.
MaGee is now on crutches and cannot go to work for at least a month.
On Saturday, the Revolution Ice Cream Company, located in Brandon, is donating 20 percent of sales to MaGee's medical expense.
She has also started a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses.
SHARK EXPERT: TAMPA BAY A BREEDING GROUND FOR SHARKS
MaGee says she was unaware Tampa Bay is a breeding ground, or nursery rather, for bull shark.
Eric Hovland, a curator and shark expert at The Florida Aquarium, says this speaks to the health of the Bay.
"We are seeing everything from scallops to sharks making a comeback in the Bay," said Hovland. "It is the time of year when sharks are coming in, be they bulls, sharp nose or a variety of sharks in our Gulf and Tampa Bay waters."
He added the conditions are perfect for breeding and for pup sharks to survive.
"It is a feeding ground for the young pups that are maybe a half a meter long. They are looking for small bait fish," he explained.
While some have described the bull shark as aggressive, Hovland disagrees. He explained sharks often get confused in murky water, and the only way to tell if humans are a fish is to bump and bite.
"This are animals that are bigger sharks just like tiger sharks and great whites, and they tend to make up that top three when we talk about accidents with sharks. However, a small blacktip shark can do the same as a bull, they might come in to investigate, especially if the water is murky. They will do a bump, a bite and move on," Hovland said.
However, one bite can prove fatal or leave serious injuries, as in MaGee's case.
"A bull shark is much bigger. They do have big, sharp teeth. They are capable of catching larger prey but when they make a mistake it's a bigger mistake," he noted.
Hovland added bull sharks tend to move into murky water where they have an advantage in sense of smell, helping them find prey.
PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM SHARK ATTACKS
If Shark Week has you fearful you will become a shark's breakfast, there are things you can do to protect yourself.
Than offers the following safety tips:
- Swim in groups
- Avoid being in the water at dusk and dawn when sharks feed
- Avoid murky water
- If you see fish schooling, immediately get out of the water
- Avoid light, shiny clothing