Surfer recounts terror of friend nearly losing a hand in shark attack
Jan 19, 2013 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A 43-year-old Kona man who thought he had lost his hand in a shark attack off Hawaii island is recovering at Kaiser Medical Center at Moanalua and has regained partial use of his hand.
A hospital spokeswoman said Friday he is alert and stable.
Victim Paul Santos told his surfing friend, Steve Macres of Holualoa, that surgeons reattached Santos' right hand and that he can move his pinkie.
Macres described what happened Wednesday at Kiholo Bay on Hawaii island, a spot on the west shore where Macres has surfed for more than 35 years.
Both were the only ones out in the water. The water was murky, Macres said, adding they were about 30 feet apart in water about 8 feet deep.
Macres said he caught a wave and heard a blood-curdling scream. He turned and saw Santos' surfboard fly into the air. At the same time, he saw a 15-foot tiger shark twist its body in the air before it landed on the water's surface.
The shark charged at Santos like a torpedo, Macres said Friday in a phone interview from Hawaii island.
Santos paddled about 150 yards to shore. The shark bit his right hand and leg just below the knee. His right hand was dangling from his wrist.
Macres said he ripped Santos' surfboard leash from his leg and used it as a tourniquet. He tied the leash around Santos' right biceps to stop the bleeding and yelled for help.
Santos told Macres, "Oh my God, I'm going to lose my hand."
He was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital, then flown Wednesday night to Kaiser Medical Center.
While Santos was on the beach, Macres and a group of people that included a tourist and a nurse from the Bakken estate helped Santos to a nearby table.
They used beach towels to keep him warm and raised his legs. A tourist also used a T-shirt to wrap around Santos' right leg. He had a 3-inch gash below his right knee believed to have been caused by one of the shark's teeth in the attack. Macres said the laceration was not life-threatening.
Santos told Macres that he saw a gray blur charging toward him while he was in the water. While his right hand was in the shark's mouth, Santos said he was able to punch the shark on its snout with his left hand before he paddled to shore.
Macres and the others tended to him for about a half-hour before paramedics arrived.
Macres said he is thankful his friend survived the shark attack, adding the injury to his wrist was life-threatening.
There are two visible bite marks underneath Santos' 5-foot-8-inch surfboard. The shark just came beneath him with a vengeance, he added.
Macres said he has surfed at Kiholo Bay for 38 years and had never seen a shark attack there until Wednesday.
State shark specialist Randy Honebrink said attacks are rare on the west coast of Hawaii island.
"Mr. Santos was absolutely in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the shark was close by," he said.
Carl Meyer, an assistant researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology who conducted a study with other scientists on the movement patterns of tiger sharks around the Hawaiian Islands, said tiger sharks are routinely seen at Kiholo Bay.
The area is known to be a birthing area for sharks.
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