A tourist who was attacked by a shark Wednesday while swimming in waist-deep waters off Florida’s Vero Beach is in stable condition today, WPTV reports.
Karin Ulrike Stei, a 47-year-old woman visiting from Konstanz, Germany, was swimming about 30 yards from shore when a shark bit her left leg, severing her femoral artery and leaving a large laceration from her thigh to below her knee, CBS-12 News in West Palm Beach reports.
Stei’s friend, Brigitte Schmide, was swimming about 10 yards closer to shore when the attack occurred and told CBS-12 that she wasn’t aware of any danger in the water until someone yelled “shark!”
Witnesses to the attack said it appeared as though the shark, the species of which has not been identified, removed a section of Stei’s leg in one bite.
“She was the only one in the water. You could see her backpedaling, and then you just see a black cloud forming around her. And by the time she screamed again, we pretty much knew,” one witness, Michael Curran, told CBS Miami. “I started calling 911 as they dragged her onto the sand. Just saw, real bad shark bite.”
“It was from a foot above her knee to half her calf was just gone. It wasn’t like it was still there. It was just gone,” another witness, Scott Weston, told the station.
Lifeguard Eric Toomso was on a nearby boardwalk when he heard Stei scream and rushed into the water to pull her out, with help from several other people near the scene, United Press International reports.
Luckily for Stei, a fire rescue helicopter happened to be flying above the water when the attack occurred, and touched down after the pilot saw the incident. She was flown to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce and immediately underwent emergency surgery.
Stei is now in stable condition, and discussions are underway about the huge schools of common bait fish that gather close to shore around this time of year, attracting sharks as well as predators like bluefish, mackerels and jacks.
“There have been a ton of sharks around,” Capt. Brian Williamson, a fishing guide who runs a tackle shop and full service charter fishing company in Vero Beach, told WPTV.
“A lot of my regulars that come by the shop are saying it’s been harder to catch bait off the beach lately than it is to catch sharks,” he said.
According to Local 6 News in Orlando, shark bites are rare in Indian River County, where Vero Beach is located. Between 1882 and 2011, there have been only 17 reported attacks.
But in other Florida counties, it’s a different story. Brevard County, which borders Indian River County to the north, has logged 103 shark bites since 1882.
And to the north of Brevard County lies the “shark bite capital of the world,” Volusia County, according to Local 6 News. That county saw 242 attacks during the same time period.