Shark bite victim recovering after Tuesday attack

Kekaha Kai State Beach Park closed until further notice

Published  2:02 PM HST Jun 19, 2013
Shark attack victim
KONA, Hawaii -

Alive but barely able to walk. A Kailua-Kona man is recovering well after a shark attacked him in waters off the Kona Coast.

28-year-old James Kerrigan says he was having a great day swimming with his fiancee at Kekaha Kai State Park Tuesday afternoon when a shark bit him on his leg.

"All of the sudden I felt something grab me and give me a tug," Kerrigan told KITV over the phone Wednesday. "And the next thing in my head is 'Get to shore! Get to Shore!'"

What grabbed him was a 12-foot tiger shark taking a taste of Kerrigan's right leg. Remarkably he was able to get himself back to shore.

"Witnesses say there's a big chunk taken off my calf. That was the worst part," added Kerrigan. "And multiple lacerations all over the place."

His fiancee, Mary Jo Sorrentino, was just a few feet away when she saw the shark.

"I heard him scream out or make a noise that caught my attention," Sorrentino explained. "So I looked at him and could see the side of the shark. We started hightailing to the shore. As we were swimming we looked back and there was a lot of blood in the water."

Witnesses who saw Kerrigan come ashore said that the swimmer kept his calm through the ordeal.

"He came out of the water and he started saying 'Call 911'" said Shelby Eriksson, a Hilo native who witnessed the incident and snapped photos of Kerrigan being treated on land.

Eriksson added that an off-duty EMT, who just happened to be there, aided Kerrigan until rescuers from the Hawaii Fire Department transported him via helicopter to Kona Community Hospital.

"An EMT, I guess he was on vacation, he applied pressure." Eriksson said. "He was really helping him. It was pretty amazing."

Even after he is released from the hospital, Kerrigan says he will have to undergo months of physical therapy to fully regain strength in his right leg.

The Hawaii Fire Department did a flyover of the beach park and spotted a group of eight reef sharks Wednesday. No tiger sharks were spotted.

As a result, Kekaha Kai State Park was closed all day Wednesday. Crews will do another flyover Thursday to determine if the park will be reopened.

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