Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Florida man survives shark attack after ‘apex predator’ pulls him underwater, narrowly misses femoral artery

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A Florida deckhand attacked by a pair of reef sharks after slipping off a fishing dock in the Bahamas recounted the terrifying encounter Wednesday.

Marlin Wakeman, 24, was working on a charter boat when he misjudged a jump on the dock, falling into the water. Fishermen at the Flying Fish Marina on Long Island regularly throw their scraps into the surrounding waters, effectively keeping a cadre of sharks there as “pets.”

At least 20 sharks raced up to the 24-year-old when he fell off the dock on April 26 and “ended up in a shark den,” Wakeman told Fox News Digital. 

“Everybody keeps asking ‘are you traumatized?'” Wakeman, who has spent much of his life beside or in the ocean while diving or on boats, said on Tuesday. “It’s definitely a big scary thing that happened to me, and I’m definitely shaken up from it, but I knew what would happen as soon as I fell in.” 

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Wakeman credited his years of experience for his quick reaction that likely saved his life.

“I wasn’t really scared at the moment,” he said. “I just knew I had to get out as quickly as possible. Thankfully, I’m here to tell the story.”

The sport fishing mate and his friends at the Bahamas dock had often discussed what might happen to them if they fell in the water – fishermen would regularly fillet their catches and throw the refuse into the water there, maintaining a mass of sharks that were”so dialed into the sound of something hitting the water that they look at any sound and they think ‘food.’”

“What we’ve created is if something hits the water they’re going to bite it, whether it’s a stick, a human, a shore power cord that falls in the water,” Wakeman said. “I realized quickly that this is the last place you want to fall in the water.”

The 24-year-old said he was only in the water for “five to seven seconds” after he miscalculated a jump onto a boat while ferrying fishing gear to and from the vessel. He managed to catch himself on the boat, but a shark grabbed his leg and pulled him under the water. 

“I knew a shark bit me, there wasn’t a second of doubt in my mind,” Wakeman said. 

Another shark nipped his shoulder with its teeth before the deckhand managed to pull himself back onto the boat. 

He called for the captain of the boat and elevated his leg. Wakeman said a nearby sailboat guide began to panic, yelling “He’s bleeding out!” “I was like, hey, can we get this guy away from me? This is freaking me out a little bit.” 

“I was like, hey man, I don’t really wanna die right now. This ain’t it,” he told reporters while smiling at a press conference last week.

The boat’s captain tied a tourniquet to Wakeman’s leg and pushed him into a van with a wheelbarrow. There, someone shoved gauze into his leg wound, and Wakeman passed out from the pain. 

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The man was taken to the nearest medical center, then flown to Florida from the Bahamas for surgery. 

Wakeman’s surgeon, Dr. Robert Borrego, said that the shark’s bite narrowly missed a femoral artery. If the shark had bitten in a slightly different spot, Wakeman would have bled out on the dock in minutes, the doctor said last week.

“The fact that there’s 20 sharks in there, and you were able to get out of there and still have a leg? It’s amazing. And I think it also goes to say how quickly he reacted and that he didn’t panic,” Borrego said.

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Borrego told reporters that he estimated that the shark that bit Wakeman’s leg was seven feet long. Wakeman believes it was a Caribbean shark. 

The deckhand, who had just returned from a physical therapy appointment Wednesday, told Fox News Digital that he is expected to make a full recovery. Currently, he is unable to move his knee properly. 

He credits Borrego, who has done extensive research on which types of bacteria come from which types of sharks, with his quick recovery. 

“I came into the hospital, I told them I got bitten by a reef shark, and he knew what type of antibiotics to give me,” Wakeman said. “He’s done this research to find out what research you need to do with which sharks, so you’re not guessing – that can save you from a really bad infection or losing a limb.” 

Last month’s shark encounter wasn’t Wakeman’s first brush with the “apex predators.” He has come face-to-face with them multiple times on diving excursions. Despite his harrowing experience, he insists that his own human error and the behavior of humans at the dock caused the accident, and urged those afraid of sharks to reconsider. 

“You hear of these terrifying incidents in Australia and South Africa and Hawaii and the Bahamas. It’s scary stuff, but sharks aren’t how they’re made out to be, he said. “But there’s a fine line to where fear and respect join in together. I don’t think everyone should be as terrified as they are of sharks. they’re scary as s***, but it’s not like they’re going to eat you because you’re swimming in the water.” 

“I would tell the public, don’t be scared to go to the beach, don’t be scared to go diving in a cool spot,” he said. “If you’re on a cruise and there’s a snorkel thing and you’re scared to do it because you’re scared of sharks, I would try to persuade people to do it. It’s so rare to be bitten by a shark it’s insane.”

However, he noted that the treatment of sharks at the dock where he was bitten is the norm in the Bahamas, and said that accidents like his could be prevented with a few simple countermeasures. 

In his career, he said he has fallen off docks three times, but the situation wasn’t so dire in the previous two instances because the sharks weren’t used to being fed.

“Maybe put the fillet table in a different corner than all the boats are, maybe put the fish carcasses in a wheelbarrow and put them in a different spot,” he suggested. “But that’s up to the Bahamas – if they want to keep their marinas like that, that’s their business.”

“I’m not going to beg them to change it because I made a mistake,” he said. “It is a problem, though. I don’t think there should be that many sharks in a marina like that. Let’s say it was an older person or a younger kid. I had to do a full muscle up – if it was a kid they wouldn’t have been able to reach the boat, and if it was an older person they wouldn’t have the strength to pull themselves up.”

Wakeman said he’s had “one nightmare” since his brush with the sharks – but insisted that he would continue to dive, swim and work in the ocean. 

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