Flagler student bit by shark

By Grace Walsh | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Flagler sophomore Kelsey Hammell was paddling out for an afternoon surf by the pier on Saturday, Sept. 18. It was around 2:30 in the afternoon on 4th street when Hammell found herself in a scary situation.

“I was surfing in the outside break. I was pretty far out and it was in between sets,” Hammell said. “It got really calm for a little bit and I could see there was something under the water circling around. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it.”

The circling image Hammell saw later appeared to be everyone’s worst nightmare in the water — a shark.

“I got really scared, I knew it was a shark,” she said. “I went to paddle for the next wave and as I was paddling it ran into me full force and bit my shin.”

Just when Hammell thought it was all over, the shark came back around for a second bite.

“It came back the second time at a different angle. Its body was up against mine and it’s mouth was down at my ankle and just latched right onto it.”

Hammell was able to kick the shark to get it off and she took the next wave in. Hammell has been surfing for 10 years and has never experienced a shark encounter. When she arrived at the hospital, doctors told her the cut was highly infected so she wasn’t able to receive stitches. Judging from the bites, the doctors said the shark was about 5 feet long.

“The shark bruised a nerve in my shin so I haven’t been able to move my toes that much.” 

After being on crutches for two weeks, Hammell said after another two weeks, her foot will be all better. Kelsey went back in the water for the first time after she went off the crutches.

“I went in this past Friday, just paddled around a little bit,” Hammell said. “I wasn’t really scared until I got further out, then it hit me … I had a little panic attack, but I got over it.”

Prior to Hammell’s attack, there was another recent shark attack published in the St. Augustine Record the first week of September. The attack took place on Dondanville road where bodysurfer Jason Whitworth was bitten on his left hand by a three-foot-long shark. He was treated at Flagler hospital for several stitches on his wrist.

According to George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, the most common sharks seen on the east coast during the summer weather are the Blacktip, Spinner, Sharpnose and Blacknose. All of these only grow to about seven feet at the most, yet they are capable of causing a vicious injury.

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