SAN DIEGO — A shark attacked a 13-year-old who was diving for lobsters at a beach in California early Saturday morning, leaving him with traumatic injuries to his torso, authorities said.
The teenager, identified in an online fundraising site as Keane Hayes, was screaming when other lobster divers heard him and quickly came to his aid.
Keane was in serious condition at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, a hospital spokesman, Carlos Delgado, said Sunday, but he’s expected to make a full recovery. The teenager was conscious and speaking when he was airlifted to the hospital from Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas, Calif., said Larry Giles, the captain of the lifeguards.
The attack happened about 200 yards from the shore in about 9 feet of water, Giles said. Authorities believe the shark was 11 feet long but have not found it. The species of shark was not yet known.
Keane’s father was on the beach supervising the dive, Giles said at a news conference Saturday.
“This patient received a very rapid and quick response by the trauma team,” said Dr. Timothy Fairbanks, a surgeon at the hospital. “This is a rare injury. In the 10 years that I have been at this hospital, I have not seen an injury like this.”
Giles said an off-duty police officer from Oceanside, Calif., an off-duty California State Park lifeguard and another man were diving for lobsters on the first day of lobster season when they heard Keane screaming and thought he was excited because he had caught one.
“I thought it was someone who caught some big bugs and was enthusiastic,” Chad Hammel, one of Keane’s rescuers, told KUSI News. “He kept going and then I realized that he was yelling, ‘I got bit! Help, help, help!’ ”
The three men swam to the teenager and put him on a kayak to take him to shore. “Once we get him on the kayak we can really see what happened,” Hammel said.
Chris Lowe, director of the Long Beach State University Shark Lab in California, said in a statement that shark attacks on humans were “exceedingly rare considering the number of people that use southern California waters, but people do need to be aware that the fall season is a time when more large juvenile and adult white sharks may be moving along the coast.”
The episode Saturday was the latest shark attack along the coasts of the United States.
Arthur Medici, 26, was on a boogie board on Sept. 17 when he was fatally bitten by a shark 300 yards away from Newcomb Hollow Beach in Cape Cod, in the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936.
In August, a 14-year-old boy was bumped by a shark in Huntington Beach, Calif. He was not hurt.
In July, a 13-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl were bitten by sharks within minutes of each other on Fire Island, N.Y. A shark’s tooth was found in the boy’s leg.
“It is not a high number of attacks for this time of the year,” said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “We are at a typical level of shark attacks worldwide and a little bit under for the United States this time of the year.”
As of Sept. 16, there were 23 unprovoked shark attacks on humans in the United States, the majority of them in Florida. In a typical year, there are a little over 50, Naylor said.
Last year, there were 88 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide, including five fatalities, according to the museum’s International Shark Attack File. On average, there are 83 attacks worldwide each year.
The United States, with its long coastlines, has historically had the most attacks, followed by Australia, South Africa and Brazil.
It is difficult to compare the attacks on the coasts to one another, Naylor said, adding that trying to compare them would be like “comparing rat bites to dog bites.”
“There are 600 types of sharks from different regions that swim in different depths and eat different food and only 30-40 species bite people,” he said.
The great white, tiger and bull shark species account for half of all the shark bites on humans, Naylor said. The great white population is increasing in Cape Cod because the seal population is also increasing. The sharks follow the seals, come closer to beaches where people swim and mistake them for their prey.