Elvin Lanza was swimming off Haulover Beach in Miami, Florida July 9 around 3:30 p.m.
The 44-year-old was on the first sandbar when he heard the whistles and saw lifeguards shouting and signaling swimmers to come in. Lanza was unsure exactly why they were calling everyone in, but he complied with the calls and started to make his way back to shore.
“I was coming back from the sandbar,” Lanza said. “I was halfway back when the jet ski man told me not to [come closer]. I noticed the shark was nearby, and that was when it attacked me.”
The shark, which may have been agitated or disoriented by the jet ski grabbed Lanza’s leg as he stood in the water.
“I was standing when it attacked me, and it grabbed my left leg,” he said. “So I tried to hit it with the right.” The shark then bit his right leg before swimming off.
He was able to make it back to shore where he was treated by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Ocean Rescue lifeguards, before being taken to the hospital.
Although he needed 29 stitches and seven staples to close up the wound, the 4- to 5-foot long suspected bull shark did not cause any critical injury.
“Thank God nothing was [severely injured] just the skin,” he said. “[The shark] did not touch veins, arteries or muscles.”
Lanza is keeping a positive attitude and when asked if he would visit the beach again said “Of course, I hope to recover soon to go again.”
While the state of Florida is known as the Shark Attack Capital of the World, Miami has been relatively quite.
The last bite reported in the area occurred on North Miami Beach May 30 around 4 p.m. when Eddie Rodriguez was swimming. He was bitten on his back by what he believed was a juvenile lemon shark.
The 48-year-old was able to shake the shark and punch it as it clung to his back. He was eventually able to shake the shark loose and swim to shore.
Unlike lemon sharks, which are normally considered docile, bull sharks can be very aggressive and their bites have been known to cause severe damage.
Sam Cumiskey was bitten by an estimated 7-foot (2m) bull shark at the Ponce Inlet in Volusia County August 29, 2016. His right foot had significant damage.
Chucky Luciano-Nahed was bitten off New Smyrna Beach September 18, 2016 and required reconstructive surgery to repair his damaged hand.
While the incident could make some beachgoers think twice about going in the water, Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, director of the Shark Research & Conservation Program at the University of Miami, doesn’t see a problem.
“No reason for big concern. They [bull sharks] have always been there so nothing has changed. So no reason for more concern than before. Just be shark smart and water conscious.”
Mr. Lanza has a GoFundMe page set up to help with medical bills.
There have been a total of 57* shark attack bites in 2017, 5 of which were fatal*; 27 were reported in the US, with 19 occurring in Florida** and one in Hawaii. Nine occurred in Australia, one of which was fatal and one with no injury. Three unconfirmed worldwide and not included in the total count
All locations have been marked on the 2017 Shark Attack Bites Tracking Map.
*Two may be scavenge **One report may have been outside of Florida waters.
All photos supplied by Elvin Lanza