An American woman snorkelling in the Turks & Caicos Islands lost her foot in an encounter with a shark on Wednesday afternoon (24 May).
The unnamed 22-year-old had been on holiday, celebrating her graduation from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. A runner, she was reported to have completed a marathon only the previous week.
She had been snorkelling with a friend from an excursion boat near the Bone Yard dive-site to the north-east of Providenciales island when the shark struck, removing her entire foot and fin.
The captain of the boat dived in to recover the woman, and applied a tourniquet to the wound. An emergency call was made to the police, and she was rushed by ambulance to a medical centre on the island for treatment.
Initial reports indicated that she had lost her entire leg, but the captain had also managed to retrieve the severed foot and placed it in a bucket of ice, in the hope that it could be reattached.
Unfortunately the operation could not be carried out, because it had taken six hours before a suitable flight to Miami, Florida could be arranged. The woman’s condition was said to be stable.
A case of mistaken identity
Shark attacks are rare, especially around the Atlantic islands of TCI where, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, only two unprovoked incidents have been confirmed since records began 274 years ago.
Big Blue Collective, which ran the private boat trip, said that the incident had occurred outside the reef, with the two snorkellers the only people in the clear, calm water. “A presumed Caribbean reef shark left one snorkeller with an injury due to what is known in diving circles as a case of mistaken identity,” it stated.
“The calm, quick and measured response from one of our captains and office team meant that the victim was extracted from the ocean and dispatched in the ambulance in 15 minutes, saving them from a potentially life-threatening situation.
“We applaud all the efforts of our team, the paramedics and the emergency first-aid responders. Our thoughts are with the victim, their family and loved ones at this time.”
Also on Divernet: UK diver’s shark death classed as ‘provoked’, It’s Official: Sharks Muddle Humans With Seals, Does Fewer Shark Bites Mean Fewer Sharks?, ‘Dangerous Moonlight’ Linked to Shark Attacks, Shark Fatality Linked To Conservation Success