Survival Animal Attacks

Coast Guard Rescues Shark-Bit Fisherman in the Bahamas, Credits Tourniquet for Helping Save His Life

Shark attacks in the Bahamas are rare, but the boat’s crew was prepared and applied a tourniquet that helped prevent further blood loss
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A USCG helicopter crew extracts the injured man from a boat near Bimini Island. U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a 51-year-old man on Feb. 21 after he was reportedly bitten by a shark while fishing on a boat near Bimini Island in the Bahamas. After airlifting the injured man from the boat, the USCG helicopter transported him to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he was in a stable condition Monday evening.

A member of the Shear Water’s crew initially contacted Coast Guard Sector Miami around 12:50 p.m. on Monday, according to a USCG news release. The crew member told the watchstander in Miami that a man on board had been bitten on the arm by a shark while fishing, and that a tourniquet had already been applied to prevent further blood loss. The watchstander then spoke over the phone with a flight surgeon from District Seven headquarters, who recommended a medical evacuation. An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and an HC-144 airplane crew were sent from Air Station Miami to the scene.

Video footage of the rescue shows that, after locating the Shear Water, a rescue swimmer dropped down to the deck of the boat and attached a line to the vessel. The helicopter crew then rigged up a rescue basket, extracted the injured man, and headed straight for Jackson Memorial Hospital, where emergency medical technicians were standing by.

How the man was bitten by a shark while fishing aboard the large boat remains a mystery. It is also unclear what kind of shark was involved in the incident. Shark attacks are rare in the Bahamas. According to the Global Shark Attack File, there has been an average of three to four attacks per year over the last decade. Only one of these proved fatal, and that unprovoked attack on a 21-year-old snorkeler occurred in 2019. Before that, the last time a shark killed a person in the Bahamas was in 2008, when a 50-year-old Austrian diver named Markus Groh was bitten in the leg by a bull shark.

According to a news report of the 2008 incident, Groh was part of a group of divers staying on a live-aboard boat named the Shear Water. The 65-foot vessel is based in West Palm Beach, Florida, and is operated by Jim Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures, which is a full-service scuba dive charter that specializes in baited shark dives without cages. Groh and the group were reportedly diving in a coral reef area known as “The End of the Map,” located off one of the Northern Islands, when he was fatally attacked on Feb. 24.

Abernethy, the owner and operator of Jim Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures, did not respond to requests for comment, so it remains unclear whether the vessel named in the Feb. 21 USCG report is the same Shear Water that was involved in the 2008 incident.

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Sean Connett, the command duty officer at Coast Guard District Seven, was quoted in Monday’s report, and he credited the boat crew’s emergency response for helping save the man’s life. By fashioning a basic splint and applying a tourniquet on the man’s arm above the location of the bite, they were able to give the victim more time and expedite the rescue process.

“This was the best possible outcome to a truly terrifying situation,” Connett said. “This individual was fortunate a fellow crew member was able to render aid prior to the Coast Guard’s arrival, which allowed for a quick extraction from the vessel.”